You taught your child how to ride a bike, but can you teach them to drive safely? Creating safer teen drivers means putting the responsibility, not just the keys, in their hands. To be safe, they need to pass more than a drivers ed test. Setting rules and habits for safe driving can keep your first-time drivers from becoming one of the 22 teens who are involved in fatal car collisions each weekend. Consequences are often too late. Facts are often not enough. Although 94% of teens know the dangers of texting and driving, 35% to doing it anyway. These parenting tips and rules can ensure that wherever they go, they go safely.
Remember who is setting the example — and the rules!
You are a parent more than a friend. Kids respond best to positive reinforcement and open dialogue. That doesn’t mean throwing out the rule book.
A relaxed parenting style avoids fights, but could injure your child. Studies show teen drivers are best benefited by parents who are engaged, have clear rules, and regularly monitor how their kids drive. So, helicopter on! They are twice as likely to wear seat belts. They are also less likely to engage in high risk behavior, like drunk driving.
Also, when you are driving, make sure you and the whole car is a calm, consistent atmosphere that is conducive to defensive driving vs aggressive driving. Experiences with established drivers set the tone for first time drivers. Discourage rambunctious behavior. Pull over if emotions, noise, or distractions get out of hand. Do not multitask. And when encountering unsafe driving conditions or aggressive drivers, slow down and transform frustration into an invaluable lesson in how to calmly take control.
FACT: As many as 1 in 5 teens have an accident during their first year driving.
SET RULES & GRADUATED REWARDS
Setting limitations for first time drivers the first year provides the safest conditions to learn in. Organizations like the CDC offer teen-parent contracts that provide great structure for understanding rules, responsibility, and consequences. Parent-teen agreements are a chance to openly discuss the responsibilities of driving ahead of time. As your teen gains experience, introduce awards like allowing a passenger or recreational driving.
FACT: 40% of teen auto deaths happen between 9pm and 6am.
SET SAFE SCHEDULING HABITS
Set a driving curfew and enforce healthy family schedules. Being tired or hurried is dangerous. Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving. Prioritize sleep, meals, and planning ahead. At the start of teen driving, limit trips to school and pre-approved functions.
FACT: One extra teen nearly doubles likelihood of a crash. More is up to 5X the chance.
KNOW WHO IS IN THE CAR
Limit when, who, and how many other teens are in the car. Distracted driving causes 60% of teen accidents. The number one cause isn’t the phone: it’s other teens, especially when listening to loud music, dancing, singing, and “acting wild”. If teens earn other teen passengers, be sure everyone knows the rules. Make the whole car a no-phone zone. Keep your first time driver from chiming in on other calls, taking driving selfies, or looking at their friends' latest Instagram.
FACT: 94% of teenage drivers know the danger, but 35% - 43% of teens admit to texting and driving anyway
MONITOR DRIVING HABITS & PHONE USE
The 4th Amendment can wait until your first time driver has learned to drive safely when you are not there. The average teen expects texts to be returned within five minutes. That's pressure. Texting and driving can be lethal. Make sure your first time driver understands the dangers and install good drivers safety habits. One way to ensure they've got smartphone training wheels: install an app. Safe driving apps are actually a great idea for experienced drivers as well as first time drivers. Create incentives for great reports. Bring your own score to the table to create increased respect and accountability (as well as some friendly competition!)
FACT: Over 50% of teens learn to drive from their parents.
Parents matter! As do all the adults your children ride with. Make sure all adults agree on driving rules for themselves and their teenagers. Check in with your children before and after rides with other drivers.
Be good examples. Well before your children are behind the wheel, they have you in view. And no one is less tolerant of hypocrisy than teenagers. “Do as I say, not as I do” simply does not work. Being a safe driver is foremost in raising safer teens. Make the car a distraction-free zone where phones are put away and rules apply to everyone. Did you know facts on texting show teens are 4 times likelier to crash while texting than adults?
Some safer family driving habits:
- Make the car a no-phone zone
- Pre-select down-tempo music and keep volume reasonable
- Plan ahead: be rested, ready, and know where you are going
- NO eating in the car
- NO multi-tasking
- NO fighting, yelling, or throwing things
- NO road rage or rushing
- Keep pets secure, using belts, dividers, or crates
- Keep calm and drive on. It is not a race. And yellow is not orange
- Take your own refresher driver ed online course. Driving ed online is an easy way to understand how your first time driver is learning and stay abreast of new rules. It could even lead you to a better insurance rate.
- Take a defensive driving course so that you can teach the techniques to handle uncertain road conditions, dangerous drivers, and creating the safest driving experience possible.
- Know your state-specific laws. For example, Oklahoma motorcycle, Texas adult permit laws, or California driver test may all include different laws regarding cell phone use, graduated licenses, lane use, road signals (NYC does not allow right-on-red), or other driver safety rules.
First Time Drivers Courses
IDriveSafely drivers ed courses are only one step in keeping your first time drivers driving safely. We build safer drivers on the groundwork you provide.
You can get online drivers ed, defensive driving, and other helpful courses or tips specific to your state. Insurance discounts, points reductions, and help with existing tickets are easy and work around your schedule.