Do you have a teen driver in your house? If you do, you probably put them behind the wheel whenever you can, and that’s fantastic since a good way to gain crucial driving skills is to practice, practice, practice.

But a drawback to daily driving routines is that they typically follow a familiar route — to school or sports practice, maybe a grocery run — and are almost exclusively during the day.

So what happens when your new driver has to go somewhere out of the ordinary or encounter a new challenge? Knowing what to expect can build confidence.

Here are 4 tricky skills that you probably haven’t practiced with your teen driver, but should.

1. How to deal with different stoplights

Unless you live in a big city, chances are good your stoplights are of the “3 light” variety: you know, red, green, and yellow.

But more involved stoplights can be confusing, like a flashing yellow that requires drivers to yield before turning left (instead of the basic protected green arrow). Your teen might not be able to recognize the differences unless you point them out, so find some of these stoplights and have them practice determining when it’s their turn to go.

2. How to drive long distances

No, you’re not going to want to turn your newly minted driver loose on a road trip. But if their longest adventure has been to the mall and back, they might not be prepared for what driving long distances feels like. As in, boring. And often tiring.

That’s why it’s smart to give them some practice free-range driving. Do it during your own family road trip. Or you can even manufacture one: you’ve always wanted to catch an awesome college game or visit Great Aunt Jean out in the hinterlands, haven’t you?

3. How to drive at night

Driving at night has its dangers. And since most teens probably aren’t hanging out with their parents on a Friday night, they may not be in the same car with you after dark very often.

Spend some time driving around with them at night on the freeway, side streets, anywhere they might occasionally navigate so they feel comfortable with the skill. Talk to your teen about the dangers of driving at night, from decreased visibility to drowsiness. And remind them to always make sure their headlights are on.

4. How to navigate unfamiliar roads

When they’re passengers, teens are often texting or scrolling and not watching their surroundings. So they may be surprised to learn that one of the hardest parts of driving can be knowing exactly where to go.

Nav systems are nice, of course, and beat the heck out of the crazy folded maps many of us learned to drive with. But they don’t answer all the questions. What if the destination isn’t easily located, or, heaven forbid, your teen ends up outside of cell service?

Show them how to read a “real” map (and then put one in their car). Also, talk to them about what to do if they miss their off-ramp or turn, since new drivers often panic and try to make a quick turn, even if it’s not safe.

So many of the skills we use every day are learned through practice. Exposing your teen to a variety of driving situations will help ensure they can confidently and carefully navigate when they’re on their own.

And when you’re preparing to insure your teen driver, here’s everything you need to know about teen driver coverage options.

Safe and smart | Car safety


about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.