Cover the following checklist before ever setting the wheels in motion:
- Explain how to adjust the seat, steering wheel and mirrors
- And a reminder that it’s also important to do this when driving someone else’s car
- Explain the various switches, buttons, indicator lights, hazard lights, etc
- Then quiz them
- Explain the ignition switch and its various positions
- Also explain the implications of forgetting the car is running and accidentally trying to start it again. The easy test if unsure is to just rev the engine while in Park to see if you can hear the engine running. I guess this won’t work with an electric car.
- Explain the various gear shifting positions and what they mean
- This is also an opportunity to explain how gears on a car are similar to gears on a 10-speed bike
- Demonstrate the blind spots
- With your teenager in the driver’s seat, stand in various places to the side of the car and ask if they can see you, either directly or from the side/rear mirrors. A related exercise involves standing somewhere near the car in which they can see you and then gradually move in one or more directions away from the car until you reach a blind spot. Explain how this relates to backing out of a parking spot, changing lanes or potentially not seeing someone that is crossing the street or riding a bicycle. This exercise also helps give justification to reject the idea of hanging decorative items from the rear view mirror or putting excessive amounts of decals on the back window.
- Explain proper hand position on the wheel
- This should be how they place their hands throughout the entire training phase. They can migrate to one-handed steering once they have their license.
- The traditional guidance for hand position was 10:00 and 2:00 but you should look at the course material provided to your teenager because the proliferation of air bags in the steering wheel has resulted in different guidelines.
- Explain the hand-over-hand method of turning
- You can use make-believe practice by gliding your hands across the wheel while the car is stationary
- Explain the rules about the radio
- My personal rule is that I control the volume of the radio during the instruction phase. Having said this, I gradually increase the volume as they get more and more hours behind the wheel. My theory is that by the time they reach the more advanced steps, I want them to be able to operate the car with the radio at some moderate or higher level because I know they’re going to have it this loud, or louder, when they are on their own. So they may as well practice with the radio on.
- Explain the rules about advise versus orders during the driving instruction phase
- I tell my kids it will be clear from my tone of voice and volume if I’m giving an order for safety reasons versus food-for-thought advice
- Show an example of how the rear wheels don’t track along the exact same path as the front wheels while turning
- A good example can be putting the car along the curb leading to your driveway. You can have the tires 12-18” away from the curb. With your teenager on the sidewalk watching both the front and rear tires, pull forward until the front tire has cleared the curb and is in front of the driveway. Turn sharply into the driveway, causing the rear tire hits the curb. The lesson is obvious. Later, when they take a turn a little too soon and jump the curb, you can remind them of the driveway exercise.
When you’re done with this phase, move on to the Getting Started phase.