Okay. Your teen has their Driver’s Permit. Your teen has started taking driving lessons. But now it’s time to practice. You need a safe place. Somewhere with a lot of open space and not a lot of other cars. We asked SoCal parents for their best advice, and gathered some suggestions.
Learning to drive in Los Angeles can be a daunting task. Ask anyone. With our heavy traffic, nearly-constant road construction, and sheer massive size, it’s important to find a safe and supportive environment to let your teen practice their driving skills.
25 Places to Practice Driving in Los Angeles
Large Shopping Area Parking Lots:
Think about where you usually shop. Now find out if any of those places have large parking lots that are accessible when the store isn’t open. A few suggestions:
– Supermarkets (such as Whole Foods on the corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Ave.)
– Costco (one location being 2901 Los Feliz Blvd.)
– Target (for example – on the corner of La Cienega Blvd. and Obama Blvd.)
– Burbank Empire Center (N. Victory Place and Empire Ave.)
– Citadel Outlets (100 Citadel Drive)
Related: Fun Things To Do with Teens in SoCal
Now while your teen may not feel comfortable driving with many other cars on the road, they do need practice navigating 4-way stop signs, stopping at crosswalks, and pulling up to a curb. That’s when you’ll want to find a neighborhood to practice. If the neighborhood where you reside isn’t the most new-driver-friendly, here are a few ideas:
– Playa Vista: the streets are not overly busy and won’t make your teen too anxious
– Hancock Park: you’ll find wide, residential streets
– Toluca Lake: there is a slow, steady pace to many of these residential streets
DMV Parking Lots:
This may seem like a strange one to add to the list, but on the weekends, most of the DMV offices are close, so the parking lots are great places to practice turns and practice parking:
– Culver City DMV (11400 W. Washington Blvd.)
– Hollywood DMV (803 Cole Ave.)
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Many Southern California attractions have large, free parking lots. If you can plan a practice session when the site is closed and/or very early in the morning, you’ll have the lot all to yourself. Here are a few ideas:
– Discovery Cube Los Angeles (11800 Foothill Blvd., Sylmar)
– Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens (5333 Zoo Dr., Los Angeles)
– Santa Monica Beach: These parking lots aren’t free, but they are large. If you get there early, not only will you have ample space in which to practice, you’ll be able to have your pick of parking spots before enjoying a day at the beach.
A Few More Ideas:
– Check out the schools (including community colleges) in your neighborhood. Do any of them have parking lots that are accessible during “off” hours?
– Ask around. Your friends and family may work somewhere that has a large parking lot that would be accessible to you.
The Freeways Beckon
We realize that the LA freeways can be intimidating, but at some point we all need to be able to drive safely on them. So once your teen has been practicing for a while, and when you all feel ready for it, gather up your courage and get out on the highway!
- The 10, the 101, and the 405 are the big ones to work up to, and the best advice we have to get out on the road as early as possible on a weekend to avoid rush hour traffic.
- Another tip is to plan to drive against the traffic pattern. For example, if you know that most drivers are heading West or South for work in the mornings, plan to head east at the time of day.
- One final tip is to do some practice driving on California State Route 90 in Marina del Rey. This short freeway is a great first experience for your teen driver, with all the look and feel of the big ones, but with very few other motorists sharing the road.
More Tips for Helping Your Teen Learn to Drive
Learn Car Basics: While it’s not required to know how to repair your own car when you get a license, it’s a very good idea to know a few basics about maintaining the vehicle you’re going to operate.
Easy things to master are: understanding each of the bells and whistles, recognizing signs of trouble, and knowing when to ask for help. Knowing to how to pump gas and fill up the tank is a great skill, and keeping the windows clean for maximum visibility goes hand in hand.
More advanced: Changing a flat tire may be something you hope your child never has to do, but knowing how to do it could come in handy some day.
Start slow: Begin by practicing in a quiet, empty parking lot or a low-traffic area. This will help your teen get comfortable with the car and its controls before venturing out on the road.
Be patient: Remember that learning to drive can be stressful for your teen, so be patient and supportive. Encourage them to ask questions and offer constructive feedback.
We recognize that this may be very difficult for some parents. We get it! If you find you’re getting super stressed out when you’re in the passenger seat, maybe you can find another adult to take a turn once in a while, like your partner, or a friend or relative. This is why Driving Instructors are so helpful.
Set clear expectations: Before each practice session, discuss what skills your teen will be working on and what you expect them to accomplish. This will help them focus and feel more confident behind the wheel.
Practice different driving scenarios: As your teen gains confidence, gradually introduce more challenging driving scenarios, such as merging onto a highway or driving in heavy traffic.
Model good driving habits: Your teen will learn from your example, so be sure to model good driving habits, such as wearing your seatbelt, obeying traffic laws, and avoiding distractions like texting or eating while driving.
Remember, the more practice your teen gets, the more confident and skilled they will become. So, be sure to make time for regular driving practice sessions and offer plenty of encouragement along the way.
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Wendy Kennar is a mother, writer, and former teacher who has lived her entire life in the same Los Angeles zip code. You can read more from Wendy at her website WendyKennar.com where she writes about books, boys, and bodies (living with an invisible disability).