How Well Does Your Teen Know the Family Vehicle? - National Safety Council

How Well Does Your Teen Know the Family Vehicle?

How parking lessons can make your teen a better driver.

January 24, 2020

Most of us know our vehicles well – we’ve got our seats adjusted just how we like and our favorite station or playlist ready to go – but can you say the same for your teen?

While the comfort of the driver’s seat is important, your teen has to ‘know’ the vehicle he or she is driving in order to stay safe. This means getting a sense of the length and width of the car, as well as how it turns and responds in different scenarios. This knowledge comes in especially handy when parking, turning or merging, and it can open up your new driver’s eyes to how much space he or she has on the road. Here are some tips to help teen drivers get to know their vehicles.

Parking struggles

How many times have you tried to fit into a tight parking space, only to have to stop, back up and try again at a different angle? Now is your chance to share this excruciating experience with your teen (and offer some pointers in the process).

Go to an empty parking area and pick out a good spot. Have your teen pull into it, getting as close as he or she thinks is appropriate to the curb and the lines, and shift into park. Then, have your teen get out and see the results. Your new driver may be surprised at how far back or off to one side the car is, or how many tries it takes to line it up in the spot. Practice this in different situations, including parking lots with more traffic and angled spots, so your teen gets a good feel for the vehicle.

Practice opportunities

You can also practice this skill at home in your garage or driveway. Though plenty of drivers use the “tennis ball trick” – hanging a tennis ball from the ceiling of their garage to signal they’ve pulled up enough when it touches the windshield – your teen can’t depend on these tricks all the time. Similar to a parking lot, have your teen pull into the garage and park where he or she thinks is appropriate, then get out and inspect the results.

These are also great opportunities for your teen to practice backing out of a parking spot or garage. This can be a challenging task in a crowded parking lot, so the more time your teen has to hone this skill in a stress-free environment, the better. Have your teen adjust the mirrors as needed and look over his or her shoulder to back out safely.

Once your teen gets a better sense of a vehicle’s size, navigating around pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles becomes much easier. So while it may not seem like learning to park outside of the mall is making your teen safer, the effects may show up unexpectedly. As always, set the example and be patient with these lessons so your teen becomes the driver we all want parked next to us.