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Advice for Parents on Teen Driver Safety

Here’s the unfortunate truth. Teenage drivers continue to be a weak link in automobile safety in Orange County, California, and all of America. Automobile accidents are still the number one cause of death for teenagers.

We at Safety 1st Driving School have made it our primary goal to change those sad facts! We are committed to using the best techniques and the most relevant and impactful information and teaching methods to create safe, skillful drivers in San Clemente and all of Orange County.

Parents, this one’s for you. You are “in the driver’s seat” when it comes to teaching your teenager. You are the most influential person in your kids’ lives. Use that power wisely!

Safety 1st isn’t just about helping San Clemente teens learn to drive. We also want to help and support parents as they help their teens. Which is why we’ve designed a specialized Grading System. We use it for every Behind-the-Wheel lesson, to record each student’s strengths and areas of weakness, and we communicate it each time to the parents so they are on the same page with us and will know what to practice with their child on their own time. (That’s just ONE way we help parents. Give us a call and we’ll tell you more!)

It’s a big job! But we know you’re up to it.

Here are some helpful bits of advice as you get started on creating a safe, skilled driver in your teenager.


As we said, never underestimate your influence as a parent. You may think your teenager wants nothing to do with you, but you’re still an incredibly powerful presence in their life. Start teaching your kid to drive by modeling good driving skills and responsible behind-the-wheel behavior. This requires that you KNOW the laws first, and then that you follow them. So if you need a refresher course, look over your teen’s driver’s education materials. Go online and spend a little time researching. It’s worth it!

Here are some practical ideas:

  • Practice defensive driving
  • Always wear your seat belt
  • Follow the speed limit
  • Use your turn signals
  • Check your mirrors
  • Be patient with other drivers! If you are prone to road rage, your kid probably will be too.
  • Show courtesy to other drivers.
  • Don’t use your cell phone! If you must, use a hands-free device.
  • Absolutely NO TEXTING. EVER!

Talk to your kid while you’re in the car. Point out things other drivers are doing (right or wrong), and things you’re doing. Admit your driving mistakes. Explain the purpose behind your safe driving and defensive driving techniques.


If you’re the parent of a teenager, you probably know that scare tactics don’t work. It’s not just you, either – research supports it. Fear isn’t a good long-term motivator. It may work in the short-term, but wouldn’t you rather equip your child with the tools they need to become a skilled and safe driver for life, rather than showing them gruesome pictures of teenage car accidents? The difficulty with that – as with all good parenting – is that it takes time. But trust us when we say it’s well worth it to protect your child’s life and the lives of others.


Teenagers are complex creatures. Not quite children, not quite adults. Do a little research on the teenage mind and you’ll find that impulse control is lower in teenagers than in adults. Consequently they are more likely to take risks while driving. If you know and understand your teenager’s mind, you’ll have more realistic expectations from them. Don’t expect them to always make the best decisions on their own. You have to help them.

For example, an episode of Dr. Phil (we linked to it on our Facebook page) showed a teenager who texted – a LOT – while driving. It was obviously affecting her driving, and it was just a matter of time before she caused a major accident. The mother hesitated to take away her daughter’s cell phone because of the devastation it would cause her daughter to not be connected to her friends 24/7. Dr. Phil explained that the girl lacked the capacity to fully consider the potential devastating ramifications of her behavior, and admonished the mother to take her daughter’s phone away and “save her from herself.”

Not only should you know teenagers in general, but you also need to be an expert on YOUR child. What works? What doesn’t work? What gets through to them? If necessary, work on having a more positive relationship with your teenager first – then they may be more likely to take your advice.


Ultimately, your teenager needs to understand that driving is a privilege, not a right. You, the parent, need to communicate that to your child very clearly. Have some established expectations and consequences set forth regarding your child’s driving. (Some families use a Parent-Teen Driving Contract.) Whatever expectations or rules you lay down, follow through with the consequences. Whether you’re parenting a toddler or a teenager, consistency is key.

Educate yourself on how best to teach your teenager safe driving skills. Communicate with your teen’s driver’s education instructors and reinforce their teaching methods. Practice driving with your teenager in a patient, non-threatening way. Praise and encourage their strengths. Celebrate their progress. Believe in their ability to become a safe, skilled driver in Orange County!

And finally, we will end as we began. MODEL IT! 

Step 1. Complete our online driver’s education course

Register for our online driver education course. After you complete the required chapters and tests, we will then send you the DMV Certificate of Completion (DL387) that you can take to the DMV when you are ready to take the written test for your learner’s permit.

Our online driver ed course is available to all California residents. You can take our course at your own pace, in your own home in your own time.

Step 2. Study for the DMV written test

You will need to study for the DMV written permit test by reading through the DMV California Driver Handbook. It will benefit you if you take your time and study the handbook so you are comfortable with the information that will be on the test.

Take your time, you don’t want to have to go back to retake the test.

Step 3. Make an appointment at the DMV to take the written exam

It is important that you call ahead of time and schedule an appointment at the local DMV so you can go in and take the written test.

The lines at the DMV are usually very long so you don’t want to waste your time waiting in line. Make sure that you are well prepared for your appointment.

Most DMV’s are open Mondays through Fridays until 5 pm; Some are also open on Saturdays for a few hours so call ahead of time and see which date and times are best for you.

Step 4. Bring necessary documents to the DMV office

  • Complete the application form DL 44, remember the DMV always requires An original to be submitted. Copies will not be accepted in any form, so make sure you have exactly what you need. You can get this form from your local DMV.
  • Have your parents or guardians sign the application form DL 44.
  • Give your right thumbprint.
  • Have your picture taken.
  • Provide your social security #
  • Verify your birth date and legal residence
  • Submit the proper form(s) for Driver Education and/or Driver Training (see below for details)
  • Pay the $28.00 application fee (This fee entitles you to three exams of any type within the 12-month period and pays for both the instruction permit and the driver license. If all requirements are not met within the 12-month period, the application becomes void and all steps must be completed again.)
  • Pass a vision exam, if you need glasses, wear them.
  • Pass a written test, there are 46 questions on the test.
  • You need a passing score of at least 39 correct answers.
  • You have three chances to pass the test. If you fail, you must wait 7 days before taking it again.


Driver Education and Driver Training Form Requirements:

If you are 15  years of age, you will need to bring with you:

  • Form DL 356 or OL 237 (Completion of Driver Education) with form DL 391 (Driver Training Enrollment ) if your school has a contract with a driving school.


  • Form DL 356 or forms OL 237 and OL 238 (Completion of both Driver Education and Driver Training)


  • Submit form DL 391 or OL 239 (Simultaneous Enrollment in Driver Education and Driver Training)


If you are over 15 but under 18 years of age, you will need to submit:

  • Form DL 356 or OL 237 (Completion of Driver Education)


  • Form DL 391 or OL 239 (Simultaneous Enrollment in Driver Education and Driver Training)


If you are over 17  but under 18 years of age, you may get your permit without the driver education and driver training certificates however, you will not be able to take the driving test until you turn 18.

Once you pass your written test, you will be issued a provisional permit. You can be issued a permit at age 15, but you cannot take the driving test or be issued a driver’s license until you are 16 years of age.

A parent, guardian, spouse, or adult 25 years of age or older, who has a valid California driver’s license, must be with you when you drive. They must sit in a position that allows them to take control of the vehicle, if necessary. It is illegal for you to drive alone at any time.

Before being eligible to take the driving test you must:

  • Be 16 years old
  • Have had your permit for a minimum of six months
  • Have completed driver education
  • Have completed 6 hours of professional driver training
  • Have completed 50 hours of practice with an adult 25 years or older. The adult must have a valid California driver’s license and certify to the 50 hours of practice. At least 10 of the 50 hours must have been done at night.


If driver education and driver training were taken in a state other than California, DMV will accept either a Secondary Schools Other Than California Schools form DL 33 completed by the out-of-state school or a letter on the out-of-state school’s stationery signed by a school official stating that the courses are equivalent to California’s requirements. Instructional permits issued by another state are not acceptable

Step 5. Complete behind the wheel training

When you pass the written exam:

  • You are required to take your first 2 hours of behind the wheel training with a professional driving instructor.
  •  You may start behind the wheel training with your parent/guardian or other licensed drivers who are 25 years of age or older.
  •  You must further complete four (4) more hours of driving school instruction.
  • Complete fifty (50) additional hours of behind the wheel training with a parent/guardian or any other adult who is 25 years old or older. The adult must have a valid California driver license and certify that you’ve had the 50 hours of practice. It is required that 10 of the 50 hours of training is done in the evening.

Step 6. Take the driving test at the DMV

To be eligible to take your driving test you must:

  • Be 16 years old
  • Have had your permit for a minimum of six months
  • Have completed a driver education course
  • Have completed 6 hours of professional driver training
  • Have completed 50 hours of practice with an adult who is 25 years or older. The adult must have a valid California driver license and certify to the 50 hours of practice. At least 10 of the 50 hours must have been done at night.
  • You will also need to show registration and proof of insurance for the vehicle you will be taking your drive test in.
  •  If you fail your drive test, you must wait two weeks before you can take the test again. You have three chances to pass.
    • Driving (behind-the-wheel) retest fee is $6.00.
    • Motorcycle driving (behind-the-wheel) retest fee $6.00.


After you pass your drive test you will be issued an interim license valid for 60 days until you receive your new photo license in the mail. Double-check your address before you leave DMV and tell the DMV representative if you have moved or if your address is incorrect.

If you have not received your license after 60 days, call (916) 657-7790 and they can check on the status for you. Have your interim license with you to provide information when requested.

Step 7. Receive provisional license upon passing the driving test

After you pass the Driving Test, you will be issued a provisional license. Your license will have the following restrictions for the next year: During the first 12 months, you are licensed to drive you must be accompanied by a driver 25 years of age or older if you drive between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. or if you have passengers under the age of 20 in the car at any time.

Persons under 18 may not be employed to drive a motor vehicle. When you become 18, the provisional part of your license ends. You may continue to drive as an adult using your photo license, which will expire on your 5th birthday after the date you applied.