As a parent in California, setting your child up to be a safe responsible driver can be overwhelming. You are have to find a reputable California driver’s ed program, a good driving instructor, spend time in the vehicle with them, train them on vehicle and road safety, set up insurance, and so on. Well here at Your Drivers Ed Online, we want to make things much easier for you. We want to not only set your child up for success behind the wheel but give some insights on how you as the parent can also act as a driving instructor.   

We know most parents don’t train to be a driving instructor and it has probably been ages since you took your last exam at the DMV. If you feel completely unprepared for this responsibility, rest assured that the best way you can help your teen behind the wheel is by setting a good example. No one likes a back seat driver, it can cause conflict in the vehicle, add stress to the situation, and simply hurt people’s feelings. That’s why we encourage parents to read the following 8 guidelines – your child will become a better driver by learning these good habits from you. After all, creating good habits is all you can hope for when teaching your child to be safe behind the wheel. 

1: Don’t be distracted

There are many driving distractions in today’s world. Now more than ever we are dealing with constant alerts from our technology, multi-tasking, time crunches, and a very fast paced way of life. Driving is a constant part of that and most of the time a second thought. As a parent, (or in this case, a driving instructor for your teen), taking time to make sure you’re not distracted is important.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, “A 2021 OTS Public Opinion Survey found 74.3% percent of Californians identified distracted driving (texting or talking) as their biggest traffic safety concern on California roadways.” As a parent this is the first example you should set for your new driver. Never let a call, text, or Instagram let you take your eyes off the road. Your teen will see this as an ok thing to do, especially if you as the parent make an excuse for it. There should be no excuse for a teen driver to be on their phone behind the wheel. 

Driving distractions also include things like eating. It’s important to share with your teen driver that taking an extra few minutes at home or to pull over to eat is important. Eating in the car takes one hand off the wheel and your eyes away from the road. As a parent, it’s good to set the standard that eating while driving should wait. There are hundreds of driving distractions we could go through but these are two of the most common reasons for accidents for young people. As a parent, setting an example of making your focus about the road and not other things will help teach your new driver to do this as well. 

2: Be courteous

Another way to set an example for your teen is to be courteous on the road. Trust us, we know it’s easy to get annoyed or become angry if someone cuts you off, honks at you, or is just not paying attention. But it’s important to teach young drivers that taking the high road is the best option.

According to the Zebra, “In 2019, 82% of people admitted to committing an act of road rage in the past year.” It’s important for new drivers to learn about road rage and how to avoid it. The best way to do this is lead by example. Keeping a cool and calm mind is always important to staying safe on the road. 

3: Be prepared

Being prepared is always a good thing to teach a new driver. This could be things like showing your teen to have a car emergency kit in the trunk at all times. You could simply remind them to keep an eye on the gas level and fluid levels before leaving. Taking an extra couple of minutes to show your child what to check for before getting on the road is easy and will be lessons they will hold onto forever. 

4: Positive attitude

When you’re behind the wheel, it’s important to keep a cool head and maintain a good attitude. After all, driving can be stressful, and road rage is a real danger as we touched on. But keeping a positive outlook while driving can actually help you stay calm and focused as well. For one thing, a good attitude will help you stay patient when dealing with traffic or bad weather. And if you do happen to make a mistake while driving, a positive attitude will help you recover quickly and avoid getting flustered. In short, maintaining a good attitude behind the wheel can help you stay safe on the road. So next time you’re behind the wheel, take a deep breath and relax – it’ll do wonders for your driving.

5: Always wear seat belts

According to OTS, “The national seat belt use rate is at 90.7%, and in California it’s 95.9%, which is good, but we can do better.” Wearing a seatbelt is a simple task. Making it a standard practice is easy. As the parent, try to associate entering the car with seatbelts by saying, “seatbelts on?” before pulling out of the driveway. By starting this habit, you’ll create a subconscious reminder your teen will say to themselves every time they get in the car alone.

6: Always use mirrors and blinkers

Using your blinker isn’t just a courtesy to other drivers – it’s the law. Signal lights are one of the most important safety features on a car, and they help to prevent accidents by letting other drivers know when you’re going to turn or change lanes. When you don’t use your blinker, you’re putting yourself and other drivers at risk. As a parent you can point out when you see other drivers not use their signal and use it as a learning lesson for your teen driver. 

7: Don’t rush 

As a parent it is important to let your kids know it’s ok to be a little late if it means staying safe on the roadway. Accidents happen. We’ve all run a little late before, but no matter where you’re going it’s not worth it to run stop signs, red lights, or travel at unsafe speeds. Setting the example of giving yourself an extra couple of minutes to compensate for traffic, needing to get gas, or whatever else life throws at you is important. Not only will this keep your child from rushing (or making excuses for rushing while driving), it’s also just a good example of how to be punctual which will ultimately help in work and life. 

8: Allow them to ask questions

This one may seem simple, but allow your child to ask questions. As a parent we know you aren’t a driving instructor, but you have real road experience and valuable insight on how to be safe when behind the wheel. Keeping constant communication about safety on the roadway is key. You as a parent are on the road with your child much more than driving instructors can be, so use each situation (good or bad) as a learning experience to help prepare you child for what could happen to them in the future.


In the scheme of things, as a parent with a teen in the car, you are essentially a driving instructor. You are the first person to expose your child to driving, giving you a great opportunity to set the correct example of how an adult should act behind the wheel. Instilling good habits in a new driver is essential, so as a parent and driving instructor make sure to take your time, explain why you do what you do behind the wheel, and make sure to let them know safety is always the priority.