Top 5 Teen Driving Safety Tips

February 25, 2019

teenager driving a car
Your teen’s 16, with a shiny license in hand. They’re smiling. You’re hyperventilating.

Car crashes remain the leading cause of teen deaths. For each mile driven, teen drivers aged 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers 20 and older. That’s scary stuff. But you can teach your teen to be a safer driver! Here’s how.

Step 1: Have your teen driver sign a safety contract

A teen driving contract clearly spells out the rules of the road for your new driver. It states basic driving behaviors that are expected (such as always wearing seatbelts) and forbidden (such as texting and driving). It may also outline a teen driver’s responsibility for maintaining the car, filling it with gas or paying for car insurance.

When parents impose driving restrictions, teenagers typically drive more carefully and are involved in fewer crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Writing them out in a contract forces your teenage driver to read, understand and agree to each rule. It also makes the consequences clear, so your new driver can’t whine that he didn’t know he really had to be home by 11 p.m.

These parent-teen contracts go both ways, too. The SADD Contract for Life includes a pledge for the parent: that the parent will never drive while impaired and will provide her child with safe transportation home from an unsafe situation “and to defer discussions about that situation until a time when we can both have a discussion in a calm and caring manner.”

Step 2: Teach your teen how driving behavior affects their car insurance

Many teens think a speeding ticket is no big deal. They’re shocked to discover that a single infraction can raise their insurance rates by 20 to 30 percent, or even more, for years. This can be a powerful incentive for teen drivers to slow down, especially if their safe-driving contract states that they’re responsible for paying any increases in their insurance premiums. Talk to them, too, about the costs of a DUI, which can hit $50,000 or more when you factor in the increased cost of car insurance over time.

Before your teen driver hits the road, explain the basics of car insurance. They need to know that their driving behavior, not only their age, has a significant impact on the cost of their insurance for years to come. And they need to know how insurance works: what it covers, what it doesn’t cover, and what they should do when they get into an accident.

If you need to find the cheapest car insurance for your teen driver, we can help. If your teenager has their own car, and you don’t want to add them to the policy you carry for your own, more expensive cars, you should compare quotes for teen insurance on Compare.com. That way, you can find the best deal before you buy.

Even if you decide to add your teen driver to your own policy, it’s smart to comparison-shop. Your rates may change dramatically with an additional driver, and different insurers’ quotes can vary by hundreds of dollars.

Step 3: Consider using a teen-driver safety app

  • AT&T DriveMode is a free app that silences incoming alerts and phone calls and alerts parents if a teen driver turns it off.
  • Bouncie is a paid app that lets you monitor your teen’s trip history and driving habits, as well as geo-locating their car.
  • License+ is a teen-driving app with a positive focus on coaching. For 100 hours of driving, it alerts the driver and coach (such as a parent) to unsafe driving practices and awards badges for mastering driving skills.
  • TrueMotion Family is a suite of apps that gives each driver in a family a safety score, tracks their locations and even rewards users with prizes, like gift cards.

Technology can be an anxious parent’s best friend, but your teen driver might chafe at being watched all the time. Consider striking a deal: If they can hit certain safe-driving benchmarks, then you’ll let them drive without an app monitoring them.

Step 4: Train your teenager to handle tough driving conditions

Many parents take a textbook approach to driving lessons: obeying traffic signs and signals, parallel parking, safely merging and passing, and learning to follow the rules of the road. But this approach assumes that other drivers are also following the rules — and sometimes, they’re just not.

For teens, driving safely means learning to handle adverse and unpredictable situations. You may be able to teach them some of what you’ve learned in years on the road, but the best way to teach a teen driving safety is through an intensive, hands-on class in defensive driving techniques.

The best known is Tire Rack Street Survival, a one-day session that includes classroom and behind-the-wheel training. Teen drivers “work on skid control on a wet skid pad; go through a lane change/accident avoidance maneuvers; perform threshold braking/ABS exercises; and drive a slalom course to learn about weight transfer.”

Step 5: Teach your teen driver to take care of their car

Whether your teen driver has their own car or is driving yours, you want them to treat it with respect. Show them how to:

  • Check the fluids
  • Access the jack and spare tire
  • Adjust the seats, mirrors, steering wheel, and displays
  • Check the tire pressure and add air

Don’t let your teen treat their car like trash, either! If Starbucks cups are rolling around the floor and lost French fries are shriveling under your seat, they’ll lose that sense of pride in their ride. The car will lose some of its value, too, if it gets dirty and smells funky. So make sure they wipe down the dash, visit the car wash regularly, and get in the habit of tossing trash every time they fill up the tank.

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