1- Before You Start the Engine

Goal: Teach your teen vehicle basics before actual driving begins.

Location: Parked. This is a non-driving lesson.

Lesson one – touring the vehicle

Walk around the outside of the car with your teen. Instruct them to look for leaks and hazards such as broken glass, and to make sure it’s clear behind the vehicle as well as in front of the vehicle.

Have your teen practice these basic skills until they don’t need help:

  • Starting and stopping the engine
  • Naming and operating all dashboard and steering wheel controls
  • Checking oil level
  • Checking wiper fluid
  • Checking tire pressure
  • Checking tire tread depth

Lesson two – seating position

A proper seat position is critical to maintaining control of the vehicle. Your teen should sit with their back firmly against the seat. There should be at least 10 inches between the steering wheel and the driver’s chest, with the air bag pointing at the chest. The top of the steering wheel should be no higher than the shoulders. Move the seat forward or backward so that the driver’s heel touches the floor and can pivot quickly between the brake and accelerator. Shorter drivers may need a seat cushion or pedal extenders to sit safely 10-12 inches from the air bag. The head restraint should be at the center of the driver’s head.

Understanding hand signals

It is important for your teen to understand hand signals in case the vehicle signals are not working, and to ensure the safe sharing of the road with cyclists.

Lesson three – checking blind spots

The most effective way to deal with blind spots is to briefly turn and look.

Additionally, teach your teen how to look over their shoulder to check the blind spot on each side of the car that cannot be seen in the mirrors. Blind spots should be checked every time you change lanes.


Lesson four – mirror settings

The method below provides the best view of adjacent lanes, for maximum safety.

  • Inside mirror: Have your teen sit up straight in the driver’s seat and adjust the inside mirror
    so that it frames the entire rear window. This is the main mirror for viewing what is behind the vehicle.
  • Left-side mirror: Have your teen lean their head toward the left-side window, and set the left mirror so they can barely see the side of the car. When they sit up straight, the car should no longer be visible in the mirror.
  • Right-side mirror: Do the same to the right. Have your teen lean to the right over the car’s center console, and set the right mirror so they can barely see the right side of the car.

Proper mirror settings

In the past, drivers were often taught mirror settings that created an overlap between the rear and side mirrors. This is actually less safe because it increases the size of the blind spots. This is a great opportunity to update your own driving skills while teaching your teen.