Take Your Teen Through the Drive-thru - National Safety Council

Take Your Teen Through the Drive-thru

Creative ways to help teens stay in their lanes while driving.

February 14, 2020

New drivers may be excited about getting out onto the wide-open road, but sometimes that road isn’t quite so wide.

Multi-lane roads – whether they’re on the highway or just have parked cars along the side – may make your teen feel claustrophobic. After all, it can be hard to tell how aligned you are in the lane, and the risk of colliding with another vehicle doesn’t make it any easier. Yet, staying safely in your lane is a crucial habit for new drivers to learn, so what’s the solution?

Here’s a suggestion: practice in the drive-thru.

Keep it simple

For most roadway hazards, it’s better for your teen to get some experience when the stakes are low and they don’t get much lower than navigating your car around a drive-thru. By design, you have to drive slowly through them which means your teen won’t be stressed to make quick decisions. Yet, they also require you stay in your lane while turning, making them a great fit for this lesson.

You can keep this practice session simple: have your teen take you to a local drive-thru – consider going when it’s mostly empty so your teen is even more comfortable – and handle the entire ordering/pick-up process (though we’ll leave it to you to decide who pays). Your teen will get more comfortable driving in close proximity to the building and other vehicles, while also getting a better sense of how to handle tight curves.

Other real-world substitutes

The goal of this lesson is to teach your teen how to stay in the lane (the food is just a side-benefit) but there are plenty of other ways to do this without paying for a meal each time. If you’re headed to the bank, the pharmacy or somewhere with a parking garage, consider bringing your teen along to get some more experience. Once you start looking, you’ll find lots of similar areas where your teen can practice this skill without getting onto a busy highway (and you can always go when these businesses are closed to save on costs).

During these lessons, you can also talk to your teen about parking while stopped versus only using the brake. The right option might depend on the situation but your teen needs to know which gear the vehicle is in at all times. There can be serious consequences if your teen forgets the vehicle is still in drive, so offer helpful tips like this and help your teen turn them into habits.

As your teen gets more experience behind the wheel, look for more opportunities to cover the driving issues that you may have skipped over. Your teen likely won’t have to order at a drive-thru in order to get a license but that doesn’t mean he or she won’t benefit from the lesson.