UPDATED: Oct 19, 2019
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Driving a car is a liberating. It means that you can go almost anywhere! It can also be a big step for teen drivers and their parents. Although teens may revel in their new freedoms, it is also important for teen drivers and their parents to educate themselves fully before hitting the road.
Although anyone can get into a car accident, teen drivers should be especially cautious. Lack of experience combined with youth can be a dangerous combination, 16-year-olds, for example, have a higher crash rate than any other age group, and almost a third of teen drivers are in at least one accident.
- DoSomething.org: 11 facts about teen driving
- The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: Stats: teen driver safety
Rules of the Road
One of the most important steps teen drivers and their parents can take is learning and understanding the rules of the road. State and city laws may vary, but there are some basic rules that should be followed. Teens should drive distraction free. There should be no cell phone use while driving. It is also important to learn the basic rules of how to yield, how to park, and how to drive in all weather conditions.
- Kids Health: Rules of the road for teen drivers
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Teen driving
Graduated Driver Licensing
Although many teens get their licenses at age 16, there are often graduate programs available that give teens years of gradually more and more independent driving. These generally consist of a permit phase, which requires a certain amount of driving with supervision as well as a test, a probationary period in which the teen is usually unable to have multiple passengers and no cell phones, and then a final full licensing period. These can help teens gradually build confidence and experience.
- Office of the Illinois Secretary of State: Graduated driver license
- Governors Highway Safety Association: Teens and novice drivers
Basic Car Maintenance and Safety
Teens should also understand the basics of maintaining a car. Knowing how to change a tire, how to put oil in, how to pump gas, and how to refill the washer fluid can all be the difference between an inconvenience and a major problem. Also, teens should understand how safety features, like brakes, airbags, and locks work on their cars. Not only should teens keep themselves and any passengers safe, but they should also know how to maintain the car they are allowed to drive.
- Consumer Reports: Car-care basics for first-time car owners
Most Common Risks for Teen Drivers
Although teen drivers can experience any type of situation on the road, there are some risks that teen drivers fall victim to more often. These risks are common, and discussing them should be part of any training on how to drive.
Teen drivers simply aren’t as experienced as many older drivers. They don’t have years of experience behind the wheel, or in life in general, so they can’t be expected to have the knowledge many adult drivers have. Riding with your teen frequently, making sure to discuss driving conditions, and having them take a driving safety course can be very helpful!
Teens should also understand the dangers of speeding. Although going the speed limit is fine, going over, especially in unsafe conditions, can be costly and dangerous. Speeding endangers everyone on the road, and teens should learn to both pay attention to speed limits and to allow themselves time to avoid speeding.
- Centers for Disease Control: Teen drivers
Risk is part of driving, but teens may lack the experience or caution to really know how to avoid or mitigate risk. Making sure teens understand that not all risk is bad, but that risk taking while driving can be dangerous, is very important.
- SafeKids.org: New research confirms parents can make a difference in reducing their teens’ risky driving behavior
Teens may lack experience, but they also can lack the ability to properly understand hazards. Standing water, road debris, and other hazards are easy for most experienced drivers, but teens don’t have the knowledge or skill to safely avoid many of those hazards or to see their potential for harm. Teaching teens how to react to hazards is a key lesson.
- National Institutes of Health: Safe driving for distracted teens
Many states limit how many passengers that aren’t family a teen can have in the car at once. Multiple passengers can be distracting and can also create situations that make it difficult for teens to concentrate. Having more people in the car is something teens should avoid.
- Association for Psychological Science: Driving under the influence of friends is risky for teens
- New York State Department of Health: Teen drivers and passengers safety
Seatbelts are mandatory for all drivers and there are a variety of laws mandating their use. Teens must be educated about the need for seatbelts for themselves and their passengers. Wearing a seatbelt can save lives.
- National Conference of State Legislators: State seat belt laws
- US Department of Transportation: Seat belt laws
Distracted driving can mean a variety of things. Cell phone usage, too many passengers, eating while driving, and many other actions can keep teens from focusing on the road. It is important to remind teens that distracted driving makes all of their activities unsafe while in the car!
- Students Against Destructive Decisions: Teens and distracted driving
- AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety: Distracted driving
Driving at night can be challenging for even the most experienced drivers. Glare can make it difficult to see, and deer or other animals can cause drivers to have to make quick decisions. Nighttime driving can be even more difficult for teens, so parents should make sure to supervise teens when they drive at night.
- National Safety Council: Driving at night
- NPR: Most nighttime crashes with teen drivers happen before midnight
Drinking and Drugs
No matter your stance on underage drinking or legalizing certain drugs, teenagers need to understand that drinking and drugs should never mix with driving. In addition, even legal drugs should be used with caution. Anything that makes a teen drowsy can be dangerous. Teens should understand that there is a no tolerance policy for intoxicated driving of any kind.
- Texas Department of Transportation: Underage drinking and driving
- Mothers Against Drunk Driving: Statistics
Teens should also be aware of the dangers of and need for caution in bad weather. Rain is common, but learning how to drive in snow and ice should be a priority for teen drivers. Also, learning how to drive effectively in high winds can be helpful, especially if teens are driving on their own over long distances.
- The Weather Channel: Extreme weather driving safety tips
- Florida Department of Motor Vehicles: Defensive driving
Safe Driving Tips
There are many tips for safe driving that everyone, but especially teens, should know:
- Slow down
- Watch the road
- Maintain a safe distance between you and the car in front of you
- Maintain a constant speed
- Avoid hazardous driving conditions if possible
- Gradually increase driving responsibilities
- Butler County Engineer’s Office: Safe driving tips
- Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration: 10 steps to responsible driving for all motorists
Tips for Parents to Keep Teens Safe
Parents can help keep teens safe when they are learning to drive. Setting a good example for teens is crucial, but parents should also supervise teens while they are learning and once they are on their own in the car. Parents should also emphasize the importance of safety as well as the consequences of unsafe driving.
How Teen Driving Impacts Car Insurance Quotes
Car insurance can be impacted by teens. Teenagers are more expensive to insure in general, but there are some steps to help lower the costs. Driving safety courses, good grades, and no criminal record may help teens to qualify for lower rates.
- AARP: Car insurance discounts
Resources for Teens
Teens can access many resources that will help make driving safer and allow them to learn more about becoming responsible and careful drivers.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln discusses driver’s education at: Driver’s ed significantly reduces teen crashes, tickets.
The University of Rochester Medical Center offers advice for new drivers at: Safety tips for teenage drivers.
Resources for Parents
Parents can also benefit from reading tips about helping their teens learn to drive. There are resources to help parents, and parents should always monitor their teen’s driving and offer help if needed.
The Massachusetts General Hospital makes some helpful suggestions at: Teen driving: tips for parents.
The Michigan PTA also offers advice at: Teen driving safety.
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