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Teen Driving

Learning how to drive is an important goal for most teenagers. However, it can be very stressful for parents. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for young adults between the ages of 16 and 20. While teen drivers make up only 6% of the drivers, they are involved in 14% of all fatal car crashes. Two-thirds of the teenagers killed are males.

All 50 states have a Graduated Licensing System for teen drivers. This includes a learner’s permit, and intermediate or provisional license, and a full-privilege license. Some states spell out how much driver training is required, how many passengers are allowed, and some restrict driving at night. Make sure you understand your state’s requirements. Here are some driving safety tips for parents and teens.

Tips for Parents

  • Teach by example. Follow all the rules you expect teens to follow. Always wear your seatbelt. Don’t talk on the cell phone or text while driving. Don’t eat or drink when you are behind the wheel. Tell your child what you expect of him or her behind the wheel. Set strict rules, be sure your child understands them, and enforce them.
  • Consider enrolling your teen in a driver's education class. The more people they hear safety messages from, the better. The extra money spent could really be worth it. It also may decrease their insurance premium. Many companies give a discount for kids who complete driver's education classes.
  • Get involved in teaching your teen how to drive. Practice in a safe location and give them lots of practice time with you in the car. It is recommended that you spent 100 hours of supervised instruction with your child. Set up a practice schedule and stick to it. Try to be patient with your teen and be sure not to lose your temper. Continue to ride with them even after they've received their driver's license.
  • Talk with your teen about the dangers of drinking and driving and peer pressure. Check in with them often to see how they are handling those pressures.
  • The risk of being in a car crash is highest during the first 12 to 24 months of driving. Fatal crashes with teen drivers are more likely when other kids are in the car, because they distract the driver. Teens are also less likely to wear seatbelts when other teens are in the car. Most experts recommend that teens not be allowed to drive with friends or siblings during the first 12 months of driving unless an adult is in the car. Many states have graduated licensing programs with that limitation.
  • Always know where your teen is and when they are going to return.
  • Set a curfew. Night driving is very difficult for new drivers. Most accidents occur between 9 PM and 2 AM.
  • Limit your child's driving during bad weather.
  • Decide ahead of time which car your teen is allowed to drive. It's recommended that the best vehicle for a teen to learn is one that is old, large, and solid. It should have a driver's side airbag, good safety ratings, and be easy to maneuver. Something like a station wagon, a large SUV, or sedan is safest for teens.
  • Consider having your child pay for part or all of their car insurance. Many parents find that this provides the teen extra incentive for driving safely, as premiums go up substantially after an accident.
  • There are some unique ways for parents to monitor their kids driving, such as "How's My Driving?" bumper stickers. This service allows people to call in when they see your teen driving recklessly. This information is then passed on to you. You can also put a GPS tracking system in the car so that you always know where the car is.

Tips for Teens

  • Use your seat belt. Two-thirds of kids killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts. Make it a rule that anyone who rides with you must also wear a seat belt.
  • Never use alcohol or drugs when driving a car. Even some nonprescription medicines, like cold medicine, can impair your driving. Read the label of any medicines you take. If you drive while intoxicated, you could lose your license for years. You could also spend time in jail, or cause the injury or death of yourself or someone else.
  • Don't drive if you're sleepy. This can be as dangerous as driving intoxicated.
  • Follow the posted speed limit. The faster you go the less control you have over your car. More than a third of teen driving deaths involve speeding.
  • Avoid distractions like cell phones and pagers, music players, GPS devices, putting on makeup, or eating. Keep both hands on the wheel. Taking a minute to pull over and do these things could save your life.
  • Be aware of dangerous conditions, such as bad weather, sun in your eyes, traffic, obstacles in the road, and other drivers. Staying alert helps you react safely.
  • Don't allow your friends to pressure you into doing something unsafe. You are the one who will face the consequences if something happens.
  • Keep control of your emotions when you're driving. Road rage is increasing. If you become too upset or angry when driving, pull over to the side of the road until you get control of yourself.
  • Take care of your car. Make sure the windshield is clean, you have enough windshield wiper fluid, and that you have gas in the tank. Make sure your tires are inflated to the right pressure. Don't forget brake checks and oil changes. Having an unsafe car increases your chances for an accident.
  • Keep safety items in your car and check to make sure they work. This should include a flashlight, flares, jumper cables, and a blanket. Keep your cell phone charged.
  • Adjust the car's headrest to a height right behind your head, not behind your neck. This reduces the chance of whiplash injury if you are in an accident. Also adjust the mirrors so you can best see behind you. Be aware of any blind spots in your car.
  • Be on the lookout for pedestrians, bikes, and motorcycles.
  • If you're going somewhere new, allow extra time to get there and get good directions. Driving recklessly because you are in a rush is not worth your life.

What is a safety contract?

  • Some parents use a safety contract that both parents and their teen sign. Driving safely is not just protection for the teen, but also for everyone else on the road, including small children and babies on the sidewalks and in other vehicles. Driving a vehicle is a privilege, not a right. Make the consequences of breaking the contract clear. Below are some things that may be included in the contract. I will obey all traffic laws and speed limits and practice safe driving at all times.
  • I will always wear a seatbelt and make sure that all passengers do the same.
  • I will not talk on the cell phone, text, or use other electronic devices while driving.
  • I will not eat or drink anything while driving.
  • I will not drink alcohol or use drugs and drive or have any alcohol or drugs in my car at any time.
  • If I get a traffic ticket, I agree to pay for the ticket as well as the insurance premium which will go up as a result.
  • I agree to pay for all damages that may occur, including the insurance deductible.
  • For the first year, I will not drive friends or siblings in the car unless an adult is present.
  • I will take care of gas, oil and other maintenance requirements.
  • I will inform my parents about where I am driving and when I plan to return.
  • I agree to pay for car insurance.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-08-14
Last reviewed: 2012-05-14
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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