Much like going on a first date, attending prom, and graduating from high school, getting your driver’s license has become a teenage rite of passage in the U.S. Yet, it’s one of the most terrifying times for a parent, and rightfully so. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car crashes are the #1 killer of teens and take about 3,000 young lives every year. It doesn’t matter whether your teen is on the Honor Roll or an elite swim team – if they’re a new driver, they’re more likely to get in an accident than someone with more experience behind the wheel. Thankfully, an involved parent or adult can make all the difference. Check out these tips for teaching your teen to drive.
Tips for Teaching Your Teen to Drive
First, lead by example. When you’re in the car with your teen, be intentional about using your blinker, going under the speed limit, checking your rearview mirror, and practicing general safe driving. Drive how you expect them to drive! You can even verbally walk them through what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This will help them connect the road conditions to the act of driving.
Then, give them experience. Once they have their learner’s permit, give them supervised experience behind the wheel. Find a practice space that will offer little distraction and a lot of space, like a large, empty parking lot or a quiet residential street. Set aside a regular practice time specifically for driving, so neither you nor your teen will feel rushed or anxious. Don’t worry about driving for hours at a time; focus on having regular practice sessions, even if they’re only 15 minutes long. The CDC suggests providing at least 30 to 50 hours of supervised driving practice over at least six months.
Set boundaries. Sign a parent-teen driving agreement. Before either of you begin this new adventure, talk about the roles and expectations for both you and your teen when it comes to the car. It can help address questions like, who will be responsible for filling up the gas tank after a practice session? Can the radio be on during a practice session? Are other passengers allowed in the car during a practice session? Discussing your expectations and writing them down will help limit potential arguments and misunderstandings. Both the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the CDC offer great examples of parent-teen driving contracts.
Purchase insurance for your teen driver. The traffic accident rate for drivers aged 16 to 19 years old is higher than that of any other age group, reports the CDC, so selecting more coverage could be in your best interest. Comprehensive and collision coverage will help pay for repairs to your own vehicle should your young driver slip-up and back into a streetlight or get into a fender-bender.
Spread the word. Get your fellow adults involved! The more educated parents there are on the road, the more educated young drivers there will be out there. The CDC offers a wealth of free, downloadable resources to help parents, teachers, coaches, and other role models promote safe teen driving.
This is an exciting time for you and your teen driver, so don’t forget to enjoy the moment. Thanks to your guidance and support, your young driver will soon have their driver’s license. Feel confident knowing that you taught them well, you helped them find the right car insurance, and you helped them through a sometimes stressful rite of passage.
After Driver’s Ed
If you’re still interested in monitoring your teen’s driving once they have their driver’s license, check out My Teen Driver. The company provides two bright yellow stickers with a unique identifying number, a toll-free number, and the phrase, “How’s my teen driving?” Other drivers and pedestrians can call this number and leave an anonymous message that is then forwarded on to a parent or guardian.
According to My Teen Driver, many parents actually receive positive feedback. The company also claims that safety hotline programs reduce teen accidents and fatalities, decrease insurance premiums, increase parents’ peace of mind, and make the roads safer for everyone.
What do you think? Would you put one of these stickers on your teen driver’s car?