Missouri State Highway Patrol superintendent Col. J. Bret Johnson understands that teaching a young person to drive can be stressful to both the parent teaching and the teenager learning. It’s an important responsibility placed on parents to guide their young son or daughter into becoming a courteous, law abiding driver.

The experience doesn’t have to be negative, and the tips below will help parents and teenagers through their “driver education” experience. 


•Take a deep breath and try to relax. Don’t worry about what may happen and focus on what is happening.

•Choosing a time when there are no other distractions or time constraints will make the learning and practicing go more smoothly.

•Talk about driving, both when you’re in the car and when you aren’t.


•Don’t assume your teenager knows something; tell them. 

•Stay calm. No yelling. Give them plenty of advance warning about something they should or shouldn’t do. Once your teenager has had some driving time, turn the tables: Have your teenager tell you what they see and what they are going to do.

•Make sure your teenager has their heel on the floor when driving — this makes starts and stops smoother.

•Tell the teenager to look up ahead, rather than directly in front of the vehicle. This will reduce swerving/drifting. The car will travel in the direction they are looking.

•Make sure your teenager has their hands in the correct position on the steering wheel. If the wheel were a clock, your teenager’s hands would be at 9 and 3 or 8 and 4.

•Talk to your young driver about right-of-way. Explain when they have right-of-way and when someone else does in each situation–as they are driving.

•Help them understand they only need to turn their head and look in order to check blind spots when changing lanes or merging. Explain that when they move their entire upper body, they move the steering wheel as well.

•Remind your young driver to stay out of the “No Zone.” Tell them if they can’t see the truck driver in the rearview mirror, the truck driver can’t see them.

•Instruct your young driver to leave plenty of space between their vehicle and the one in front of them. Talk to them about following at a safe distance and that doing so gives them time to react if the car in front of them stops suddenly.

•Watch the Patrol’s short video about “Off Road Recovery” at You’ll find the video in the Patrol’s video library (see icon on the right side of the website.) Have your teenager watch the video, too. This will help you teach them how to react safely in this situation.

•If you aren’t confident about your teenager’s driving ability, lengthen their practice period. Missouri law allows teenagers to get their license at 16 years of age. However, you know best whether or not your teenager is ready for this responsibility.


•You’re new at this. You won’t do everything perfectly during the learning process. 

•Listen to suggestions and do your best to make adjustments, so you develop good habits.

•Don’t take personally any criticism of your driving. Your parents are trying to teach you to be safe.

•Driving takes your complete attention. Always be prepared to take evasive action to avoid a crash. Drive defensively. Ask your parent to help you know what this means.

•If you’re running late for school, work, or curfew, don’t speed! Call (before you begin driving) to let the other party know you will be late. Crashes can occur when you get into a hurry and make mistakes.

•If you are unsure about a law, or how to perform a particular driving action, ask your parent to explain.

•It’s not a race. If a traffic light turns yellow as you approach an intersection, take your foot off the gas and brake. In those instances where the light turns yellow when you are entering the intersection, proceed through the intersection safely. Don’t race traffic lights.

•Keep an eye on the traffic around you and ahead on the roadway. If you see brake lights, be prepared to react.

•Don’t panic if your vehicle travels off the side of the roadway. Watch the “Off Road Recovery” video at You’ll find the video in the Patrol’s video library.

•Leave plenty of room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you. This gives you time and roadway to stop.

•Drive at a safe speed, and never drive over the speed limit.

•Never use your cell phone to call or text someone when you’re in the driver’s seat. Watch “My Last Text” video on the Patrol’s home page at

•Always wear your seat belt and make sure everyone else in the vehicle does, too.

•Take responsibility for your passengers. Do not allow them to bring illegal drugs or alcohol into your vehicle.

•Read the Missouri Driver Guide cover to cover. 

•Know the Missouri graduated driver license law. You are held to that standard as a young driver.

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