When your teenager gets his or her driver’s license, it is important to be sure that your young driver is well prepared to avoid a teen car accident. Understanding the risks associated with teen driving is the first step to preventing car crashes. According to a fact sheet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in our country, and many of these collisions are preventable.
To give you a sense of the scope of the problem, in 2015 more than 2,300 teens between the ages of 16 and 19 sustained fatal injuries in car crashes. That same year, more than 221,300 teens required treatment in hospital emergency rooms for injuries they sustained in car collisions. Each day, on average, six teenagers suffer fatal injuries in car accidents.
What are some other tips for ensuring that your teen becomes a safe driver?
Safety Tips for Teenage Drivers
Given that parents play a major role in the lives of their teenage children, it should not come as a surprise that parents can have a big role in teaching their teens to be better drivers. Teens need to commit to learning about safe driving habits for themselves as well. The safe driving habits they learn should follow them into adulthood and help them prevent dangerous car accidents now and in the future.
- Get as much hands-on driving experience as you can: For a teenage driver to gain experience behind the wheel, it is important to have a supportive parent in the passenger seat. The AAA Foundation emphasizes that teens should commit to spending several hours each week practicing their driving skills and studying for the driving test. This requires involvement from parents, who should take part in several hours of driving practice with their teens.
- Accept constructive criticism and feedback from driving instructors and/or parents: It is important for teen drivers to recognize that driving, like any other new activity, has a learning curve. Teens should accept constructive criticism while learning to become better drivers.
- Remain patient: It is not easy to learn to drive a motor vehicle. Teen drivers—just like adult drivers—can get into tricky situations involving heavy traffic and other issues. Teens should remain calm as they learn to navigate complicated driving situations, and parents (and instructors) must do the same.
- Follow traffic laws: Parents should set a good example to their teens by modeling good driver behavior. This means driving within the speed limit, never using a smartphone while behind the wheel, and always buckling up. It also means avoiding all types of aggressive driving behavior such as shouting at other drivers, making gestures, tailgating or weaving in and out of traffic.
- Do not ride with other teen passengers: Distracted driving involves more than just cell phones. Teen drivers should avoid carrying other teens in the car as passengers. Having friends in the car can be a distraction to an inexperienced driver and increase the risk of a serious accident.
- Abide by your agreement: Many families make a “parent-teen driving agreement” with their teenage kids, according to AAA. It is important for parents and teens alike to abide by this document. It can involve agreements about nighttime driving, driving under certain weather conditions, driving on certain types of roads, driving with other teenagers in the car, checking in at home, obeying traffic laws, and avoiding risks like smartphone use.
Learn More About the Parent-Teen Driving Agreement
Teens can become safer drivers by developing a pact with their parents to keep everyone safe on the road. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recommends that parents and teens agree to four different checkpoints for unsupervised driving privileges. Once the teen has made sufficient progress on a checkpoint, the young driver can move onto the next checkpoint and have additional driving privileges. The AAA Foundation recommends organizing the checkpoints according to nighttime driving, riding with other teenage passengers, driving in hazardous weather conditions, and driving on certain types of roads. Together, parents and teens can decide on a reasonable time frame for each checkpoint, and have a date to review the teen driver’s progress. The following are some helpful ideas for creating these checkpoints:
Checkpoint 1: First 1-3 months after a teen gets his or her driver’s license:
- Nighttime driving privileges end at 9:00 p.m. or sundown;
- No teenage passengers in the vehicle;
- Only driving in dry weather conditions; and
- Only driving in the teen’s own neighborhood.
Checkpoint 2: Next 1-3 months after Checkpoint 1:
- Nighttime driving privileges until 10:00 p.m.;
- No more than one other teenage passenger during daylight hours and no teenage passengers during nighttime driving;
- Daytime driving in light rain conditions but nighttime driving only in dry weather; and
- Daytime driving outside the neighborhood on local roads but only driving in the teen’s own neighborhood at night.
Checkpoint 3: Next 3-6 months after Checkpoint 2:
- Nighttime driving privileges until 11:00 pm;
- One teenage passenger allowed during daylight hours, and sometimes one other teenage passenger during nighttime driving;
- Daytime driving in moderate precipitation, and nighttime driving in light rain conditions; and
- Daytime driving on all roads but highways during daytime and local roads outside the teens’ neighborhood at night.
Checkpoint 4: Next 3-6 months after Checkpoint 3:
- Nighttime driving until midnight;
- One teenage passengers during daylight hours and one teenage passenger at night;
- Daytime driving in most weather conditions and nighttime driving in moderate precipitation; and
- Daytime driving on most road types and nighttime driving on all but highways.
Teen Driving Rules and Consequences
The AAA Foundation emphasizes that teens become better drivers when they learn to abide by a specific driving rules that come with consequences if they do not obey. Examples of driving rules include:
Teen is required to check in with a parent each time she or he drives, including:
- Telling the parent specifically where the teen will go;
- Calling if plans change;
- Calling if the teen will be late; and/or
- Calling if the teen cannot get home safely.
Teen is required to obey all traffic signs and laws, including:
- Always wearing a seatbelt;
- Never using alcohol or drugs, or riding in a vehicle with someone else who has been using them;
- Avoiding aggressive driving, such as speeding, tailgating, and running traffic lights.
Teen is required to avoid all unnecessary risks while driving, such as:
- Using a cell phone while driving;
- Driving if the teen is tired or angry; and
- Driving in adverse weather conditions.
If a teen violates any of the rules, such as getting a ticket for speeding or using a cell phone while driving, the teen can expect to lose driving privileges for a number of weeks or months. Learning to abide by driving rules can make teens better and safer drivers.
When parents model good driving behavior, and teens put in the time, energy, and patience necessary to become safe drivers, we can lower the risk of teen car accidents.