Learning to Drive Syllabus, Parking Lot

I will be teaching my adult children how to drive and found it helpful to cobble together a syllabus of activities. This will be in multiple phases, starting with … a parking lot.

Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Parking Lot:


  • Use and feel of steering inputs, mirrors and other controls.
  • Car gauges and lights.
  • Learn how the car handles at different slow speeds.
  • Parking.
  • Basic turns and navigation around stationary objects.


Sammamish Park and Ride
  • Sammamish Park and Ride – flat, relatively quiet parking lot, especially during the pandemic when bus service has been limited.
  • Issaquah Highlands Park and Ride – an enclosed garage with multiple levels and turns. As it’s very busy, we’ll try it on a weekend.

Things to learn:

Before each drive, get into habit of adjusting seats, mirrors and steering wheel. Do a casual walk-around to identify obvious issues of concern (e.g., flat tire, debris on windshield, unexpected objects near car, etc.).

Basic operation of vehicle.

  • Learn how to start the car
  • Adjust environmental controls (e.g., window defroster), wipers, and lights (turn signals, headlights, high-beams, dome light) as necessary for safe driving.
  • Note fuel level. (When we drive in the neighborhood – next set of lessons – we will stop at the gas station and refuel.)
  • Learn the most common dashboard warning lights — engine cold, brake on, check engine, tire pressure, fasten seat belt, door open.
This control is non-standard on cars

Right and left turns into parking spots, forward and backwards. This will help you learn the inputs and eyeball how well you’re between the lines. After some practice, you’ll know whether you need to stop, back out to adjust angle, and retry.

Later, we’ll add place some traffic cones in the adjacent spots to simulate vehicles that may not necessarily be parked well, like every Trade Joe’s lot. Please try not to hit the cones.

I don’t know why these amuse me, but they do…

Drive around the parking lot, learning how to scan for pedestrians – some in the crosswalks, some just cutting through. Be aware of other vehicles entering and exiting. Yield or stop as necessary. Maintain appropriate lane position, speed and signals. As conditions permit, we’ll do figure eights and loops – these will require constant steering adjustment.

Practice hard braking, including feeling ABS (anti-lock braking) engaging. (This will be easier to do when the road is wet.)

We’ll have you learn the fundamentals of doing a three-point turn here so there’s no time pressure. When you’re on a public road, you can bet that someone will be soon coming towards you.