How to teach someone to drive

Father teaching teenage son to drive a car
May 19, 2023

Teaching someone to drive is a huge responsibility—whether it's your child, sibling, spouse, or friend. But with the right mindset and a plan in place, you can help your student learn habits that will make the roads a better, safer place for everyone.

What age can you teach someone to drive?

In most states, you need to be at least 21 years old and hold a valid driver's license before you can teach someone else to drive. Your state may also require you to pass an additional driver's education course or knowledge test before you're allowed to teach someone to drive.

Driver's permits and licenses

Every state has its own laws and regulations around what it takes to get a driver's license. These laws vary depending on the state, but they typically involve a period of supervised driving before a driver is granted full driving privileges.

In most states, the process starts with obtaining a learner's permit. A permit allows new drivers to start learning the process of driving under the supervision of a licensed driver. Drivers in most states can get their learner's permit between the ages of 14 and 16.

Once someone has had their permit for a certain amount of time (usually six months to a year), they can take a driving test to get their official driver's license.

Can you teach someone to drive in your own car?

In most states, you can teach someone to drive in your own car as long as you have a valid driver's license and the person you're teaching has a learner's permit. But just because you can doesn't always mean it's the wisest decision.

For example, if the student already has access to a vehicle and they plan on using it for their test—and potentially driving it afterwards—it may make sense to have them practice in that vehicle instead of yours. Each vehicle has its nuances, so expecting the student to become familiar with two different vehicles while also learning the basics of driving might not set them up for success.

If you decide to teach someone to drive in your own car, be sure your auto insurance policy can protect you if your student's lack of experience leads to an accident.

Protect yourself with car insurance

It’s a good idea to double-check not only the laws about teaching someone to drive in your state but also with your car insurance provider. It may be time to add them to your insurance policy. Also make sure you meet your state’s minimum auto insurance coverage limits and your policy is up to date before letting an unskilled or inexperienced driver drive your car.

Even if you’re a safe and experienced driver and you’re comfortable teaching someone to drive, accidents can still happen. Car insurance coverages can help reduce your financial burden for covered damages or injuries that may occur during a lesson, including damage to your car, damage to someone else’s property, and medical bills.

Before teaching someone to drive, consider adding the following insurance coverages to your policy or increasing your limits on coverages you already have:

  • Liability: Required by law in most states, liability coverage is designed to protect you from financial responsibility for others’ bodily injuries or property damage when you’re at fault in an accident.

  • Collision: Collision coverage is an optional coverage intended to offer protection for damages to your car caused by a collision with another vehicle or object, such as a curb or tree.

  • Comprehensive: This optional coverage provides protection for non-collision-related damages to your car, like theft, vandalism, and weather-related damage caused by things like hail and flooding.

Tips for teaching someone to drive

As you prepare to teach someone to drive, consider these tips to make the most of your lessons:

1. Teach them the basics

Learning to drive is a big deal, and there’s a lot to learn. That’s why it’s important to start with Driving 101 and make sure your student has a good understanding of the following before they hit the open road:

  • Traffic laws and road signs

  • Basic driving techniques

  • The importance of wearing a seatbelt—and how to properly adjust and fasten it

  • How to operate the specific vehicle they’re about to drive

2. Practice in a safe area

Once you’ve established the rules of the road, it’s time to hit the gas… in a calm, quiet, and safe area. Find a school parking lot on a weekend or a church parking lot during the week. Not only is there less risk when practicing in an open area, but it’s also less stressful for the student—and teacher. 

These settings also allow for gradual learning and the chance for you to correct their errors in a low-stakes environment. With plenty of room for error, your student can practice their maneuvers and techniques without the fear of damaging another vehicle or causing an accident.

3. Introduce common driving scenarios

Many scenarios requiring quick thinking can pop up when driving. It’s important to expose your student to as many of these scenarios as possible so they can get used to reacting appropriately:

  • Intersections: Help them understand various right-of-way scenarios at different types of intersections, including two-way and four-way stops.

  • Lane changes: Practice changing lanes, including checking blind spots and mirrors and yielding to other vehicles when necessary.

  • Merging: Review the rules of merging and when to yield to traffic that’s already on the road.

  • Parking: Practice parking in tight spaces and packed parking lots, parallel parking on busy streets, and backing into and out of spaces.

  • Highway driving: Work on entering and exiting the highway safely, changing lanes in multiple lanes of traffic, keeping up with the flow of traffic, and driving safely at high speeds.

  • Pedestrian awareness: Teach your student to pay close attention to pedestrians and cyclists, know how to yield to them, and understand right-of-way laws.

4. Encourage defensive driving

Defensive driving is an essential skill for new drivers to learn. It can help prevent accidents and keep everyone on the road safe. Encourage defensive driving by teaching your student driver to:

  • Be aware of their surroundings and ready to react

  • Practice safe following distances

  • Look ahead to avoid potential hazards

  • Stay focused and avoid texting, adjusting the radio, or doing anything else to take their eyes and focus off the road ahead

5. Know when to take a break

Driving is often stressful even for seasoned drivers, but for teens and first-time drivers, it can often feel overwhelming. Make sure you monitor the behavior of the person you’re teaching to drive and "pump the brakes" if they start to show signs of duress, anxiety, or fatigue. 

Create a Teaching Someone to Drive checklist

Developing a checklist for yourself to follow as you teach your driving student will help you stay on track. Use the following steps as a starting point for your checklist:

1. Get your student used to the vehicle. Make sure they know:

  • Where everything is

  • How to adjust their seat and mirrors

  • How to engage and disengage the emergency brake

  • How to read the speedometer

  • How to use the windshield wipers

  • How to turn on defrosters and other functions for safe and comfortable driving.

2. Start with familiar, open areas. Once your student demonstrates skill and confidence in controlled environments, you can progress to highways and more challenging routes.

3. Create a plan for each lesson. This will help you focus on specific topics in each lesson and teach efficiently.

4. Ask your student what they know—and want to learn. If your student is also taking a driver education course or something similar, make sure your lesson aligns with what they’re learning. That way, you can reinforce those lessons, answer follow-up questions, and give them more time to practice critical skills instead of confusing them by teaching irrelevant or conflicting information.

5. Keep the sessions short and frequent. Driving can be exhausting. Aim for three 30-minute sessions per week to reinforce your lessons without overwhelming the learner.

6. Cut the lesson short if you need to. You’re better off ending a lesson early than allowing a struggling student to become frustrated or overwhelmed. Especially once you’ve progressed to more populated roads, stopping anxiety and mistakes from escalating can help protect your student, your vehicle, and other drivers.

How do you teach a nervous person to drive?

There’s no getting around it—driving is a massive responsibility and carries significant risks. It’s no surprise some people feel nervous about learning to drive. You can help calm their nerves with these tips:

  • Start slowly

  • Set realistic goals

  • Show compassion and be patient

  • Stay calm, and don’t overreact at their mistakes

  • Focus on and emphasize safety

  • Encourage them to take a professional driver’s education course

  • Use positive affirmations to support them along the way

  • Take frequent breaks

What not to do when teaching someone to drive

We’ve gone over how to teach someone to drive, but what about things you shouldn’t do? Here are a few actions to avoid as you teach from the passenger seat:

  • Yelling or criticizing their driving

  • Rushing them and not allowing them to react or respond on their own

  • Only practicing in one area, traffic condition, climate, etc.

  • Establishing your own lesson plans without consideration for what they’ll need to know to pass a driving test

  • Telling them to “do as I say, not as I do.” You should always lead by example with safe driving habits.

Car insurance discounts for safe drivers

Helping your student become a safety-conscious driver not only helps prepare them to get their driver’s license—it can also help them save money on their own car insurance policy. Many car insurance companies offer discounts for safe drivers as a way to encourage and incentivize responsible behavior.

Learning to drive is a huge milestone in anyone’s life. But it can also be a daunting experience. With patience, consistency, and a plan, you can help teach someone to be a safe and confident driver. Remember—learning to drive is a process, and everyone learns at their own pace, so slow down and enjoy the ride.

Related links

Right from the get-go, teach your new driver how to avoid road rage. Review and share these 10 ways to keep your cool behind the wheel.

What do you do when you hit a deer? Hitting a deer with your car can be an unsettling experience—especially for a new driver. Review the helpful tips in this guide.

The general information in this blog is for informational or entertainment purposes only. View our blog disclaimer.

*Data accuracy is subject to this article's publication date.

Get insured