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Helping your teen learn to drive

November 10, 2023

Learning to drive can be intimidating for your child, especially if their driving test is just around the corner. Try to take them out driving regularly, and when you do, be supportive and teach them these good habits.

1. Buckle up and hold the steering wheel correctly

Before starting the car, their seatbelt needs to be on. The examiner will make note of this. Also, generally, both hands must be on the steering wheel (except when changing gears, in the case of a vehicle with manual transmission). They must have at least one hand on the wheel at all times to maintain control. Once they're buckled up in the driver's seat, you can continue.

2. Obey speed limits

Remind your child to pay attention to speed limits and to drive accordingly. It's for their own safety and the safety of everyone else on the road. This is especially important in school zones, where a quick distraction is enough for a driver to end up speeding. Speeding is a common mistake during road tests, so remembering this tip will come in handy.

Did you know?

Driving slower is also better for the environment.1 When cars speed up and brake, they release greenhouse gases and pollutants. By driving slower, we accelerate less, which reduces our emissions.

3. Come to a full stop at all stop signs and red lights

At a stop sign or red light, drivers must come to a complete stop—the speedometer should read 0 km/h. After making sure the way is clear and checking for pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicles, they may proceed. These rules also apply when making a right turn at a stop sign or red light, where permitted.

Slowing down isn't stopping

A rolling stop (slowing down, quickly checking surroundings and then continuing) during a road test can result in an automatic fail. It can also result in 3 demerit points.

4. Drive according to road conditions

Planning your route and allowing enough travel time is the key to dealing with bad weather, such as heavy rain, thunderstorms and snow. Get your child used to driving when road conditions aren't ideal. Teach them how to adapt their driving: by driving more slowly (and more calmly) and keeping a greater distance from the vehicle in front of them. If the weather's bad when they take their road test, they'll be able to keep their cool and have a better chance at passing.

5. Check blind spots correctly

Some areas on the sides of the vehicle are not visible through the mirrors, and the windshield pillars partially obstruct the view ahead. Generally, these blind spots are even larger in SUVs and trucks, due to their height and length.2 To make sure the way is clear and to prevent collisions, it's important to turn your head and look over your shoulder before you turn or change lanes.

Encourage your child to clearly demonstrate this during their road test so that the examiner notices. 

6. Change lanes by following the proper steps

Teach your child about the proper steps to take when changing lanes:

  1. Check rearview and side mirrors to make sure the way is clear and no vehicles are approaching.
  2. Check blind spots.
  3. Signal which direction you want move.
  4. Check mirrors again.
  5. Check blind spots again to make sure the way is still clear. Then, smoothly merge into the other lane.

Drivers should keep the same speed while changing lanes. Also remind your child to keep an eye on vehicles in front

7. Avoid distractions while driving

Encourage your child to turn off their phone, or turn on driving mode or Do Not Disturb, to prevent getting distracted by a call, text or notification. Same goes for the road test! Also avoid eating, drinking, smoking, vaping and using any device or control not directly related to driving.

8. Drive with confidence

Too much caution (for example, driving too slowly or hesitating to go when they have the right of way) can confuse other road users and result in dangerous situations. Show your child how to drive smoothly and confidently, whether they're turning, changing lanes or merging onto the highway. Practising regularly is the best way to get there.

9. Always have the necessary documents on hand

Always have your proof of insurance, vehicle registration and (in Quebec) a joint report in an easy-to-access place, such as the glove compartment. Explain where these documents are and what they're used for. Also remind your child that they must have their driver's licence on them every time they get behind the wheel.

Does your auto insurance cover your child?

As soon as your child gets their learner's licence, let your insurance company know so they can add them to your policy. Not including them could have consequences for future claims. You can register them as a primary or occasional driver, depending on how often they use the car. If your child uses the vehicle more than you or on a daily basis, they must be included as a primary driver, even if you're the owner of the vehicle. Even if your child starts to use the car less often, keep them on your policy. And, if your child moves away for school and takes the car, inform your insurer of the new address.

If you're a client of Desjardins Insurance*, you can do this yourself through Online Services. Log in to your account, go to the Vehicle section, select Add a driver and then follow the instructions on-screen.

Before driving practice, give your child the time to clear their head and take deep breaths. Remind them that you believe in them. Whether it's during practice or during the road test, following the advice above will set your teen on the right track for a major milestone in their life.

1 "Réduire la limite de vitesse pour diminuer les émissions polluantes." Radio-Canada Ohdio, August 18, 2020. Available online (in French only): (Consulted August 31, 2023)


* Desjardins Insurance refers to Desjardins General Insurance Inc., provider of home, auto and business insurance.