What You Need to Know Before Your Teen Starts Driving

It can be exciting and daunting to know that your child is reaching an age where they will be eager to start driving. The best way to prepare for this milestone is to consider the important lessons your teen needs to know before getting their license. There’s a lot you need to keep in mind and teach your kids, from advising them about the financial responsibilities of driving to the potential dangers that can pop up along the way.

smiling woman sitting on black and white vehicle

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Use these talking points to set your future driver up for success.

The costs associated with a new driver

Before you agree to driver’s education and the eventuality of having your youngster get behind the wheel, you need to think about the potential upfront costs and the money you may have to spend down the line. You’ll want to know what your teen will be driving. Will they be taking the family car around town, or will you purchase them a new or used vehicle? There are several considerations to remember when choosing a car, including ensuring that it’s safe, easy to drive and navigate, and how much it will cost.

You need to decide if you will purchase the car for them as a gift, if your kid will have to buy the vehicle on their own, or if you’ll buy it and they’ll pay you back. Your teen can’t go anywhere if they don’t have something to drive once they get their license, so consider these factors in advance.

Another important consideration that can be easy to forget early on is the cost of insuring the car. It’s wise to start shopping for car insurance for a teen before they get their license so they can get approved and covered by the time they’re ready to drive. New drivers can generally expect to pay more for insurance since they don’t have a history behind the wheel, so it’s also wise to use this time to shop for discounts. Some insurers give discounts to young people with good grades or don’t drive often, so ask an agent about those scenarios. Consider requiring the teen to pay for their own insurance payments so they can learn about budgeting and responsibility.

Teach your teens to be safe

While you’re getting the financials squared away, it’s also necessary to teach your teens everything they need to know to stay safe when they eventually get behind the wheel. That includes the basics about keeping their eyes on the road and avoiding distracted driving. 

Some risks may be more specific to your teen, such as if they plan to drive at night to go to a job or out with their friends. Be aware that nighttime driving brings a fair share of risks, including limited visibility in areas lacking streetlights. Driving in the dark can be incredibly daunting if they have vision issues, such as night blindness. If they don’t plan to work at night, they can still be fatigued after a day of work, making it hard to concentrate when the sun goes down. 

Even with proper rest, nocturnal animals and people walking along the road in the dark can create unexpected obstacles. When in doubt, the answer may be to completely restrict any night driving until you know they can do so safely. Some states also have laws that prohibit teens from driving during certain hours unless they are accompanied by an adult. 

You’ll also want to walk them through all of the potential issues that can happen on the road and teach them what to do in the case of an accident or vehicle emergency. This may be a good time to educate the kids about how to fix a flat tire, what to do if their car overheats, and other potential pitfalls. You can also use this time to prepare a roadside emergency kit that includes jumper cables, first aid supplies, flashlights, blankets, and other essentials so they can stay safe during a breakdown. Parents should make a kit for their own car as well.

Your teenager should also know how to properly conduct basic maintenance on the vehicle, such as being able to change a tire, or refill common fluids like engine oil and coolant. It is also essential that they know how to properly store chemicals and other automotive supplies safely. The items should always be kept in their original containers, and hazardous substances such as antifreeze should be carefully stored well out of reach of younger children and pets. 

Set ground rules

Before you give your okay to start driver’s education, it’s a good idea to set up some ground rules. For instance, rules can include always wearing a safety belt and obeying all driving laws. You may also consider giving them a curfew until they show that they can be trusted to follow the rules. Another ground rule might be that they’ll be responsible for maintaining the vehicle, including getting all required oil changes and tire rotations. Plus, they should be responsible for keeping the car clean.

Next, create another list of guidelines about what is and isn’t allowed in the vehicle while it’s running. In addition to setting rules about drugs and alcohol, you should also forbid them from texting while driving or having too many people in the car at once. You might even make a rule where the teen is required to reach out to you if they’re on the road for more than a few hours so they can verify that they’re safe.

Take the creation of these rules very seriously and write them all down. Then, have your child sign that paper and keep it in a safe place. That’s the best way to hold them responsible and give them something to remember if they even think about doing something unsafe behind the wheel.


By making the proper plans and talking to your teens about the seriousness of operating a vehicle, you can feel better about allowing your precious child to get behind the wheel. Ensure that your child understands the serious responsibility of driving, and once they do, be there for them when they need you as they begin this new chapter.

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