Help Your Teen Driver Become a Great Driver

It’s back to school time, which means many relatively new and inexperienced teens will be driving to their school campuses or using a car to get to other activities.

According to the CDC, driver inexperience is the main cause for teen driving deaths every year.

Before the school year gets fully underway, you should talk to your teenager about safe driving and set expectations for them when they are behind the wheel. Just like a sports coach, your job as a parent and driving coach is to teach your teen driver to remain calm under pressure – exposing them to a mix of driving scenarios and road conditions, establishing safe driving rules and expectations, and reinforcing habits that can make them a great driver.

Reinforce Driver’s Ed Rules

Your teen will learn official driving rules in a Driver’s Ed course. The more practice young drivers have behind the wheel, the better, more confident drivers they become. Inexperience plays a role in many teen-driver related accidents, so a safety-related course, driver’s ed class, and driving exposure can help boost their confidence and gain useful skills and experience. Your role as a parent, driving coach, and co-pilot is to reinforce the lessons learned in driver’s ed and apply them in real-life driving situations.

Stress the Importance of Safety

Buckle up every person, every ride. Besides being the law, using a seat belt is the best way to keep every passenger – including those in the back seat – safe. But despite the law and common knowledge that seat belts save lives, 60% of teen driver deaths were not buckled at the time of impact. As a parent and driving coach, you too should set a good example and always buckle your seat belt and ensure that your passengers buckle up as well. Similarly, speeding is a problem for drivers, especially young ones, who can have an impulsive nature and immature judgment. 37% of male drivers ages 15-20 admit to speeding at the time of their accident.

Distractions Can Be Dangerous

Your teen should know that his or her attention must be on the road the entire time they are driving and that distractions like phone calls, text messages, or even the radio create a dangerous situation for everyone on the road. 11% of teenage drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal car accidents were distracted while driving. Agree that your teen driver uses a no texting while driving app to limit the number of distractions when behind the wheel.

Have a Zero Tolerance Drinking and Driving Policy

There is no safe amount of alcohol a teen can drink before driving. While young drivers are less likely than adult drivers to drink and drive, when they do, the alcohol affects their body and judgment more so than adults, greatly impairing them and increasing the likelihood of a crash. Make sure you do not drink and drive either. Teens who have seen their parents drink and drive are three times more likely to do the same.

Be Prepared

A safe car is a key component to safe driving. Regardless of whether you are in the market for a new or used car, choose the safest car you can afford for your teen driver. Many enhanced safety features like anti-lock brakes, front and side impact airbags, electronic stability control, backup cameras, front impact avoidance, lane assist, or blind spot alerts are standard features in cars that enhance safety and reliability and can save lives. Make sure your teen’s vehicle is up-to-date on maintenance, roadside assistance tools, and fuel. Register them for roadside assistance services, teach them to change a tire or jump-start a battery, and pack a roadside emergency kit in the trunk that also includes a first-aid kit.

Implement a Graduated Licensing Program

Driving is a privilege. Make sure that your teen driver knows it. Before you let them drive on their own, have a talk with them, clearly stating your expectations while they’re behind the wheel. You can set limits as to when and where they can drive, require them to help to pay for car expenses such as gas or oil changes, or only allow driving privileges if they maintain good grades.  A parent-teen driver contract can help outline expectations and consequences and may help ease both you and your teen into full driving privileges. Some common restrictions include: limited nighttime driving, as most fatal crashes for young adults, occur between 9 pm and midnight; limiting driving to school and activities only or only on local roads; limiting the number of passengers your teen can have in the car, as teens are more easily distracted by passengers and passengers can lead to riskier behavior; or limiting to driving only with adult supervision. The parent-teen driver contract not only helps open the lines of communication but also ensures that you and your teen are on the same page when it comes to safe driving.

The best way to reinforce good driving habits is to display them. Be a driving role model and lead by example. If you are a cautious and courteous driver, they are more likely to be one as well.