Tips for Parents

When your teen enters his or her driving years, it can be an exciting time for them, but can undoubtedly cause some worry for you!  The more you and your teen communicate about the responsibilities that come with driving, the more prepared you both will be.  We hope you find the tips below helpful for your new teen driver – and yourself! You’ll find some parenting advice as well as how to get started driving with your teen, and practical driving tips from experts.

Teaching Your Teen

Tips for Parents of New Drivers

Your teen’s first few experiences behind the wheel will help set her foundation for safe driving habits into the future.  As a parent, your role is to support your teen as she learns the rules of the road.  It is also important that you recognize that some driving guidelines and laws have changed since you learned to drive. For example, “10 & 2” are no longer recommended hand positions on the steering wheel (it’s now “9 & 3”).  Share in the driver education experience with your teen by learning from the professional driving instructors.

Be a good role model.

Your teen may not admit it, but he is watching you when you drive and learning by your example. That’s why it is so important to practice what you preach by buckling up, putting down your cell phone and not driving aggressively.

Get in the mood.

Only practice when you are both ready, in good moods and have plenty of time.

Start simple.

Learning to drive can be overwhelming - for your teen and for you. Begin with the basics, such as turning, parking and backing up. Then move on to more advanced skills including merging, changing lanes and parallel parking.

Start sunny.

Begin practicing during the day, in good weather. As your teen improves, gradually start driving during different driving conditions, including different times of day, in a variety of weather conditions and on all road surfaces.


Use “commentary driving” - ask questions on what your teen is doing, and what would she do in hypothetical situations. Praise her when she does something right, and if she does something incorrectly, ask her to safely pull over and discuss the mistake calmly.  After each driving session, evaluate her progress as a team.

Don't rush into rush hour.

Start with safe, low-risk driving conditions, such as empty parking lots and quiet rural roads. Gradually progress to neighborhood streets with little traffic, then busier roads and highways.

Take deep breaths.

Remember, new drivers need a lot of practice. Making mistakes is part of learning. Remain calm and focused. Teens will show the greatest improvement in the first 1,000 to 5,000 miles of driving.

Top Tips from Driving Schools

What do the professional instructors recommend for new drivers?  Read on to find some tips that you may find helpful while you are logging drive time with your teen.

"Pre-flight" check:

>    Upon approaching your vehicle, look for low or flat tires and check for objects underneath, around and (especially) behind your car, before entering.

>    Adjust mirrors and seats immediately after turning on the vehicle.

>    Turn on your headlights, day and night, for safety.

>    Limit distractions by turning phone off and radio down.

>    When backing up, do not rely on the rear view mirror. Always turn and look over your right shoulder to look out the back window. Check all directions before proceeding.

Stopping and safe distances:

>    Stop completely at stop signs and red lights. Brake smoothly (tap, then firm early, and light late)-avoid slamming on the brakes.

>    Stop far enough back that you can see the tires of the vehicle in front of you.  Another rule of thumb: Follow 4-5 seconds worth of distance from the car in front of you for speeds of 55 mph, or one car length per 10 mph.

>    When proceeding, look left, right, straight ahead, then left again both ways before moving.

>    Remain 15 feet in front of or behind trucks on all sides. If you can't see truck drivers in their mirrors, they can't see you either.

How fast is too fast?

>    Don't exceed the speed limit. The chance of death or serious injury doubles for every 10 miles per hour over 50 mph that a vehicle travels.

>    At high speeds, turning too quickly or braking too sharply can result in an out-of-control vehicle.

>    Speed increases braking distance: If you double your speed, quadruple your braking distance.

>    At high speeds, the amount of time available to detect and react to unexpected events is shortened.

Driving distractions:

Driving while distracted is hazardous for everyone, especially inexperienced drivers. Trying to dip your fries in ketchup while navigating traffic is not such a good idea. Other common distractions:

>    Chatting with other passengers

>    Drinking and eating

>    Selecting music from CD or iPod

>    Applying makeup

>    Reading directions or a map

>    Using a cell phone (texting and talking are illegal in CO if you're under 18)

Night Driving:

More than half of all teen crashes occur at night. Before driving unsupervised at night, you should have several months of daytime driving experience and extensive supervised practice driving at night. What's the difference? At night:

>    It's harder to see, especially around curves or bends.

>    Distance and speed are harder to judge.

>    More impaired and unsafe drivers are on the road.

Remember-Colorado has a midnight and 5:00 a.m. curfew for teens.

"Slow for the Cone Zone" in Winter and Wet Conditions:

Words of advice for driving during a Colorado winter (or any season for that matter!): Slow down and increase your following distance.

Rain, snow and ice make it more difficult to start, stop and turn. Even small amounts of precipitation make roads slippery. Plus, rain, fog, snow and sun glare make it more difficult to see. So if it's wet, snowy or icy-chill. Some quick tips:

>    Maintain traction - start and stop gradually and drive at steady speeds.

>    Skids - if your vehicle begins to skid, remove your foot from the accelerator or gently brake and steer in the direction you want the car to go.

>    Braking - gently brake during slippery road conditions. Avoid braking on curves by driving through them at a safe, steady speed. Gear down when going uphill or downhill.

For more on driving in wet or snowy conditions, download CDOT's Slick Tips brochure.

Parenting Advice

Studies show that when parents set limits and closely monitor teen drivers during their first year behind the wheel, they are more likely to buckle up and less likely to speed.

It's about safety, not control

Make sure they understand that the rules are for their safety. As their skills develop and they become more responsible, introduce new privileges.

Require a full report

Know where your teen is going and why. Discuss how she'll get there, who will be riding with her, and when she will be home.  Ask these simple questions:

1. Where are you going?

2. Who will your passengers be? (If allowed by GDL)

3. When will you return?

4. What is the weather expected to be like?

5. What route will you take?

Purposeful driving

Purposeful driving is driving for a reason to a specific destination. Teen driving is most dangerous when done without a specific purpose or destination.

Limit distractions

Remind your teen that using a cell phone while driving is illegal and dangerous. Prohibit other distractions including eating and drinking, smoking, adjusting the radio/CD or MP3 player and passenger “horseplay.”

Also, remind your teen that driving while tired or emotional can be dangerous for them and others on the road.

Nighttime driving

Most crashes happen after 9 p.m. so consider setting an earlier driving curfew. Gradually increase the curfew after practicing driving at night with your teen. Remember, Colorado has a midnight curfew for licensed teens during their first year.

Talk with your teen

Keep the lines of communication open so your teen feels comfortable talking with you. This builds trust and respect.

Create a Parent/Teen Driving Contract

By creating a Parent/Teen Driving Contract, you are actively engaged in keeping your teen safe behind the wheel. Click here to download a contract.