It might be hard to believe, but that little toddler who used to play with toy cars is now learning to drive the real thing. In order to help your teen become a safe driver, you have to spend time riding shotgun while your son or daughter is behind the wheel. As the Wall Street Journal reports, most states require teens to have 40 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice before they are eligible to take their driver’s license test, and in most cases, the majority of this time is with mom or dad.

While most parents in New Jersey do a great job teaching the basics like parking and keeping tabs on the speed limit, they don't always know about additional driving skills teens should learn to further avoid accidents. The following tips can help parents become even better driving instructors.

Teach Teens to Spot and Avoid Possible Dangers

Instead of spending most of a driving lesson focusing on how to parallel park, parents should also think about how to identify places and situations where the teen should be extra cautious. So much of parental driving instruction focuses on obeying the speed limit, mom or dad might forget to educate the new driver about knowing when it’s safe to make a left turn, why they should pay extra attention at crosswalks and why they should never assume that a turn signal means another driver is actually turning. As part of the 40 to 50 hours of driving practice with their teens, parents should spend a lot of that time teaching teens how to handle specific emergencies like a tire blowout.

Refresh Your Own Memory by Taking a Class

While parents are often primary driving teachers, the fact remains that most parents are not professional instructors. According to NPR, your own memory of learning to drive could be a bit fuzzy, which means that, although you may be a great driver, you might not be a fantastic teacher. To help parents be the most effective driving instructors possible, there is a web-based driving program called TeenDrivingPlan that includes a learning component that features 53 brief videos for parents to watch and a planning section to set tangible goals for the new driver(s).

To further familiarize yourself with the rules of the road and refresh your memory on safe driving practices, you can also visit and take the free online practice exams. Ask your teen to join you in taking these practice tests and maybe even make it a competition to see who gets the higher score. This will help parents become more effective driving teachers, which in turn will help their teens learn safe driving habits.

Make the Routes Progressively Harder

Yes, sitting in the passenger seat can be nerve-racking, and as a result, some parents may limit driving practice to daytime lessons on safe and familiar neighborhood roads. But in the real world, teens won’t be sticking to residential streets; they will venture out on the turnpikes, even at night and in the pouring rain. This means parents need to have teens practice on progressively more challenging routes, including at night and when the weather is less than ideal.