Teach Your Teen to Drive Lesson 4: Controlling Speed

Most traffic violations are for speeding, and speeding often contributes to traffic accidents. That’s why it’s very important to help your new driver develop skills to make good decisions about controlling their speed in different situations.

Follow our weekly summer series on teaching your teen how to drive — sharing these important driving tips in small doses may help you and your teen cover more ground.

Adjusting Speed Based on Road Conditions

Maximum speed limits are set based on ideal driving conditions — good weather, roads and traffic conditions. But driving conditions aren’t always ideal. That’s why a new driver needs to be reminded to constantly adjust their speed as driving conditions change.

Adjusting speed to traffic and road conditions can be a bit awkward for an unskilled driver at first. You can help by emphasizing that your new driver should keep pace with the other traffic and maintain the same speed as the other vehicles in the flow of traffic — as long as speed limits are observed.

Try to avoid large groups or “packs” of traffic. Show your teen driver how to do this by having them slow up a little to let other cars go by, and then resume their speed.

You should also teach your new driver to adjust their speed as they encounter unfamiliar intersections, school crossings or other areas where pedestrians might do something unexpected. Keep in mind that driving 20 mph in some situations may be too fast (even if the speed limit is 25 mph).

Your Role as Driving Instructor

Ask your new driver to maintain a constant speed. For example, you can say, “Let’s see if you can maintain 35 mph for the next half mile.” Your teen may find the speedometer will drop below or go above 35 mph. This should improve with practice. Have them practice when driving under various road conditions — hills, curves, etc.

Common Problems & Solutions

Often, new drivers tend to drive too fast through intersections. Try to help your teen realize how dangerous intersections can be—even if they have the right-of-way.

New drivers also tend to drive too fast around curves. It can be hard to understand the need to slow down to enter a curve and to accelerate after leaving the curve. With lots of practice and reminders, this will become easier.

Help your teen anticipate speed changes of the vehicle under different conditions:

  • Driving too fast for road and weather conditions
  • Slowing down too much when turning off a high speed road that has an exit lane
  • Losing speed when changing lanes
  • Letting the grade of a hill change their speed—slowing down when going uphill, speeding up when going downhill

Key Lesson

Set safe driving goals by keeping a constant speed. Adjust this speed to road and weather conditions.

Places to Practice

In early practice sessions, start teaching your teen driver to maintain constant speed on streets in residential areas or on two-lane roads with little traffic and few side streets. As they become more experienced, you can begin to venture into areas where traffic is heavier and where there is a need to adjust speed more often.

You can begin to practice increasing speed and merging onto another road at a quieter intersection, perhaps with a yield sign. Once your teen has mastered that, try merging onto a higher speed road with a longer acceleration area. Finally, work on speed control while passing or being passed, and on hills and curves.

Next week’s lesson: Safe Space and the Vehicle