How to Keep Teen Drivers Safe

Rudy Schmid
January 24, 2023

Do you have a teen in your home? If you do, you know how exciting it is when one gets their driver’s license for the first time. They are likely posing for selfies while holding up their new license and calling friends to plan trips to the local restaurants or shopping malls. The newfound freedom is exhilarating. 

While this major life event is tons of fun for teens, it can also be a bit of a nail-biter for parents. However, if you encourage them to follow safe driving habits for teens, you’ll feel much more at ease when they get behind the wheel. So Buckle up and (try to) enjoy the ride!

Banish Captain Distraction 

Anyone can become a victim of distracted driving, but unfortunately, teens are more susceptible due to their lack of experience. According to the National Highway Transportation Administration, one in three teens says they have texted while driving. Dialing a phone while driving makes a teen six times more likely to crash, and texting while driving increases their risk of crashes by 23 times. Both talking on the phone and texting take teens’ focus off the task of driving, thus reducing their ability to react if there are hazards in the roadway, another type of incident, or inclement weather. Other distractions include eating a meal, sipping a drink, putting on makeup, or driving while tired, angry, or upset. 

Talk to your teen about the hazards of distracted driving and share some of the relevant facts. They need to understand that driving is a skill that requires a driver’s full attention. Most importantly, serve as a teen safe driving example by keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel at all times. 

No Speed Racers, No!

In a hurry? Whether your teen is running a bit late or showing off, the truth is, speeding in town almost certainly never shortens your commute time. Speeding on a freeway only saves a small amount of time, and it’s probably much less than you think. But the consequences can be dire. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2020, speed was a factor in 31% of the fatal crashes involving teen drivers.

To discourage your teen from speeding, be a good role model! Be consistent with the message you tell them as well as your driving behavior. Also, consider waiting to buy them a new car. According to a study from the Governors Highway Safety Association, a teen is more likely to speed in their own car vs. one belonging to a family member. 

Practice, practice, practice 

One of the biggest reasons for accidents behind the wheel is inexperience. That means when it comes to safe driving habits for teens, the more practice they get, the safer they will be. Once they have their permit, encourage them to drive as much as possible in a wide range of environments – different times of day, various types of weather, and driving such as city versus rural or suburban roads — while you’re in the car with them. Take every opportunity you can to get them behind the wheel. 

Patience is a virtue 

It’s tough being in the car with a teen driver! But you must remember to keep your cool and be as patient as possible. Before getting started, discuss the proposed route. In an even, nonconfrontational voice, advise them where to go with clear directions, such as “turn right at this corner.” Some teens are easier to teach than others! The trick is to keep calm even if they get defensive. Always ask how they thought the drive went for them and offer praise when appropriate. 

At the end of the day, keep an open dialogue, stay involved, and provide constructive criticism. As the more experienced driver (and person!), you are there to guide and teach your teen as they hit this important milestone. With a little luck, these teen-safe driving habits will last a lifetime.