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Driving Safety Tips for Teens: How to keep them safe on the road?

Driving is a skill that many teens look forward to learning. It gives them a sense of independence, freedom, and responsibility. However, driving also comes with many risks and challenges, especially for inexperienced and young drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death among teens in the United States. In 2020, about 2,800 teens aged 13–19 were killed and about 227,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. These statistics are alarming and show the need for effective teen driving safety tips and education.

As a parent, you play a vital role in helping your teen become a safe and responsible driver. You can provide guidance, supervision, and support to your teen as they learn how to drive. You can also set rules and expectations for your teen’s driving behavior and monitor their progress. By doing so, you can reduce your teen’s crash risk and protect them from harm.

In this article, we share some of the most important driving safety tips for teens that you can use to help your teen driver. These tips are based on research, evidence, and best practices from various sources, such as the CDC, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). We will also explain why these tips are important and how they can benefit your teen driver.

Tip #1: Enroll your teen in a driver education program

One of the first steps to becoming a safe driver is to learn the basics of driving from a qualified instructor. A driver education program can teach your teen the rules of the road, the skills of vehicle control, and the strategies of hazard recognition and avoidance. A driver education program can also prepare your teen for the written and practical tests required to obtain a driver’s license.

However, not all driver education programs are created equal. Some may be more comprehensive, effective, and up-to-date than others. Therefore, it is important to choose a driver education program that meets the standards and recommendations of reputable organizations, such as the NHTSA, the IIHS, and the AAP.

Some criteria to look for in a driver education program include:

  • First, the program should be accredited by a national or state agency that oversees driver education.
  • In addition, the program should have qualified instructors who have experience, training, certification, and background checks.
  • On the other hand, it should have a curriculum that covers both classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction. At a minimum, it must offer 30 hours of classroom instruction and at least 6 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction.
  • The program should have a low student-to-instructor ratio, preferably no more than 4 students per instructor for behind-the-wheel instruction.
  • Also, the program should have a fleet of well-maintained vehicles that are equipped with safety features, such as dual brakes, airbags, seat belts, and mirrors.
  • It is important that it has a policy that prohibits cell phone use, texting, eating, drinking, or any other distractions while driving.
  • Additionally, the program should have an evaluation system that assesses the student’s knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors related to driving.
  • By enrolling your teen in a quality driver education program, you can help them gain the essential knowledge and skills they need to drive safely. However, keep in mind that driver education is not enough by itself. Certainly, this teen driver education program needs should be supplemented by additional practice and supervision from you as a parent.

Tip #2: Supervise your teen’s driving practice

Another key factor in developing safe driving habits is practice. The more your teen drives under different conditions and situations, the more they will improve their driving skills and confidence. However, practice alone is not enough. Your teen also needs guidance, feedback, and support from you as a parent. Meaning, you can act as a coach and mentor for your teen as they practice their driving skills.

According to the NHTSA, parents should supervise their teen’s driving practice for at least 50 hours before they get their license. Therefore, the NHTSA recommends this practice should include at least 10 hours of nighttime driving and 10 hours of driving in different weather conditions. The practice should also cover various types of roads, such as highways, rural roads, city streets, parking lots, etc. 

To get the most out of practice driving sessions with your teen, you should follow these driving safety tips for teens:

  • Plan ahead. Before each session, decide on the route, destination, duration, objectives, and expectations. Review them with your teen before you start driving.
  • Start simple. Begin with easy tasks and environments that match your teen’s skill level. Gradually increase the difficulty and complexity as your teen progresses.
  • Stay calm. That is, avoid yelling, criticizing, or panicking during the session. Use a calm and positive tone of voice when giving instructions or feedback. Finally, praise your teen for their successes and encourage them to learn from their mistakes.
  • Be specific. Give clear and concise directions and explanations to your teen. Use common terms and phrases that your teen can understand. Also, avoid vague or confusing comments, such as “slow down” or “watch out”.
  • Be consistent. Follow the same rules and expectations that you want your teen to follow. For example, if you want your teen to wear a seat belt, you should wear one too. Likewise, if you want your teen to avoid distractions, you should avoid them too.
  • Be flexible. Adapt to the changing conditions and situations that may arise during the session. That is, you must be prepared to change your plans or objectives if necessary. For example, if the weather becomes bad, you may want to end the session early or find a safer place to drive.
  • By supervising your teen’s driving practice, you can help them gain valuable experience and confidence behind the wheel. You can also monitor their progress and identify their strengths and weaknesses. This way, you can tailor your coaching and feedback to meet their individual needs.

Tip #3: Implement a graduated driver licensing system

A graduated driver licensing (GDL) system is a proven strategy to reduce teen crash risk and save lives. The GDL system is a set of laws and restrictions that limit high-risk driving situations for new drivers, such as nighttime driving, passenger carrying, cell phone use, etc. It generally consists of three stages: a learner’s permit stage, an intermediate or provisional license stage, and a full license stage. In essence, each stage has different requirements and conditions that the driver must meet before moving on to the next stage.

According to the IIHS, a GDL system can reduce fatal crashes by 20% to 40% among 16-year-old drivers. Also, it can reduce nonfatal injury crashes, and traffic violations. Likewise, it can reduce insurance claims, and risky driving behaviors among teen drivers.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of a GDL system in place. However, the specific laws and restrictions vary from state to state. Some states have stronger and more comprehensive GDL systems than others. Therefore, it is important to check your state’s GDL laws and regulations before your teen starts driving.

However, even if your state has a strong GDL system, you may want to consider implementing additional rules and restrictions for your teen driver. Research shows that parental involvement and monitoring can enhance the effectiveness of a GDL system. For example, you can create a parent-teen driving agreement that outlines the rules and expectations for your teen’s driving behavior. You can also enforce consequences for violating the agreement, such as losing driving privileges or paying fines.

Some rules and restrictions that you may want to include in your parent-teen driving agreement are:

  • Nighttime driving limit. Set a curfew for your teen’s driving that is earlier than the state’s GDL law. For example, if your state’s GDL law prohibits driving after 10 pm, you may want to set your teen’s curfew at 9 pm.
  • Passenger limit. Restrict the number of passengers that your teen can carry while driving. Ideally, your teen should not drive with any passengers other than you or another adult supervisor for at least the first six months of driving. After that, you may allow one passenger at a time, preferably someone who is older and more mature than your teen.
  • Cell phone ban. Prohibit your teen from using any cell phone or electronic device while driving, even if it is hands-free or voice-activated. Cell phone use while driving is a major distraction that can impair your teen’s attention, reaction time, and decision-making.
  • Seat belt requirement. Require your teen and all passengers to wear seat belts at all times while in the car. Seat belts are the simplest and most effective way to prevent injuries and deaths in case of a crash.
  • Speed limit compliance. Remind your teen to obey the speed limit and adjust their speed according to the road and weather conditions. Speeding is a common factor in many teen crashes, as it reduces the time and distance available to avoid or mitigate a crash.
  • Alcohol and drug prohibition. Warn your teen about the dangers and consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Explain that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol or use recreational drugs in any amount. Also, advise your teen to avoid driving with anyone who is impaired by alcohol or drugs.
  • By implementing a GDL system for your teen driver, you can limit their exposure to high-risk driving situations and help them develop safe driving habits over time.

Tip #4: Be a good role model

Perhaps this is one of the most important driving safety tips for teens. Definitely, one of the most influential factors in shaping your teen’s driving behavior is you as a parent. Your teen looks up to you as a role model and learns from your actions and attitudes behind the wheel. Therefore, it is important to set a good example for your teen by following the same rules and expectations that you want them to follow.

According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, parents who engage in risky driving behaviors, such as speeding, texting, or running red lights, are more likely to have teens who do the same. On the other hand, parents who practice safe driving behaviors, such as wearing seat belts, obeying traffic laws, and avoiding distractions, are more likely to have teens who emulate them.

Therefore, you should be mindful of how you drive when your teen is in the car with you. You should also be consistent and honest about your own driving mistakes and how you correct them. By doing so, you can show your teen that you value safety and responsibility on the road.

Final Words

Driving is a privilege and a responsibility that requires skill, knowledge, and maturity. As a parent, you can help your teen become a safe and responsible driver by following these driving safety tips for teens:

  • Enroll your teen in a quality driver education program that teaches them the basics of driving.
  • Supervise your teen’s driving practice for at least 50 hours before they get their license.
  • Implement a graduated driver licensing system that limits high-risk driving situations for your teen.
  • Be a good role model for your teen by practicing safe driving behaviors yourself.

By following these tips, you can reduce your teen’s crash risk and protect them from harm. You can also foster a positive and supportive relationship with your teen as they learn how to drive.

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