While getting a driver’s license is a much-anticipated rite-of-passage for teenagers, it can be a very anxious time for parents–with good reason. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens. Crash risk is highest in the first year drivers have their license.
Immaturity and lack of driving experience are the two main reasons leading to high crash rates for teens. Lack of experience affects their recognition of and response to hazardous situations and results in dangerous practices such as speeding and tailgating. In addition, teens tend to talk and text on their cellphones and become distracted by friends in their car—and often they do not wear their seatbelts.
If you are the parent of a new teen driver, here are some tips to help minimize the risks:
Gradual learning is key to safe driving
It takes plenty of patience and practice to become a safe driver. That’s why it’s smarter to let your teens build up their driving skills slowly, with graduated levels of responsibility. It’s also important to ensure your teen is coached by an experienced driver and to set reasonable limits that help keep your teen out of harm’s way.
Many states have successfully reduced teen accident rates with graduated driver’s license (GDL) programs and other laws that allow teen drivers to develop skills and gain experience behind the wheel. With these, new drivers are restricted from certain activities—such as late-night driving, having passengers in the car, or being on the road unsupervised—until they have had their licenses for a set period of time.
In states without a GDL program, parents can institute the same policies. Take an active role in your teenager’s driving practice and expose them to driving in a wide variety of driving conditions to build experience and confidence as you introduce privileges gradually. Allow independent driving only after continued practice, including night driving and driving in inclement weather.
Here are some suggested driving guidelines:
- Driving in remote, uncongested places with parent or guardian (5 hours)
- Driving in your neighborhood on residential streets with parent or guardian (10 hours)
- Driving throughout city (except interstates) with parent or guardian (40 hours)
- Extended driving on interstates with parent or guardian (40 hours)
- Driving only during daylight hours without parent or guardian (Months 1-3)
- Driving only during daylight hours with one friend in the car (Months 4-6)
- Extend driving to evening hours with one friend in the vehicle (Months 7-12)
- Extend driving to evenings with no more than three friends in the car (After 1st year)
Enroll your teen in drivers education course
The more driving practice the better; experience will give your teens the confidence behind the wheel, and they will be better able to react to challenging situations on the road. An added bonus is that teenagers who have completed a recognized drivers education course are viewed more favorably by insurers and may earn a discount.
Register your teen in a safe driver program
Some insurance companies offer a “safe driver” program. Teen participants in these programs sign parent-teen driving contracts that outline the young driver’s responsibilities (for instance, not having teen passengers in the car, being home by a certain hour, etc.) and the consequences of failure to meet those expectations. If your teenager completes the program, not only will he or she be a safer driver, you may also be eligible for a discount.
In addition, many insurance companies are helping to reduce the number of accidents involving teen drivers by subsidizing the cost of electronic devices, such as GPS systems and video cameras, which can monitor the way teens drive and alert parents of unsafe driving practices by email, text message or phone.
Execute a parent-teen contract
If your insurance company does not have a “safe driver” program, execute your own parent-teen contract with your teen driver. Use a parent-teen driving contract as a way to start talking to your teen about driving. You can help your teen understand your expectations for safe driving by agreeing to and signing a contract with driving ground rules such as:
- I will always wear a seat belt
- I will obey all traffic laws at all times to ensure my safety and the safety of others
- I will avoid distractions, and I will not talk on my cellphone or text while driving
- I will have only ____ friend(s) in my car at a time without prior approval
- I will not let anyone else drive my car
- I will maintain a GPA of ___ and attend all my classes
- I will not drive more than ____miles from the house without permission
- I will let you know my plans when I take the car, and I will call home if those plans change
- I will abide by my curfew of ___, but I will call home if I think I’ll be more than___minutes late.
- I will not ride in a vehicle of a driver who has been drinking or using illicit drugs. If I find myself in an unsafe situation, I understand that I can call my parents for advice or a ride home at any hour from any place.
In addition, you and your teen can discuss the consequences when the rules of the contract are not followed.
Be a good role model
New drivers learn by example, so if you drive recklessly or engage in risky distractions, your teen may imitate you.
Expect a change in your insurance
Because teenagers are more likely to have accidents than experienced drivers, you may experience an increase in your insurance premiums. Typically, premiums for a family of two drivers will double with the addition of a teen driver to the policy.
At Healy Group, we want to find you the very best insurance solutions for your growing family of drivers. Adding a teen driver to your auto policy soon? We can help. Contact us.
About the Authors
Connie Greenwood, Personal Insurance Advisor
Connie Greenwood has 35 years of experience as an Insurance Advisor. She enjoys helping her clients and prospects understand their insurance options, and crafting insurance solutions tailored to their unique needs. Connie finds great joy in being a trusted advisor for her clients. She loves helping protect their financial welfare against unforeseen accidents and circumstances and bringing them peace of mind.
Tim Pingel, Personal Insurance Advisor
Tim Pingel has almost 20 years of experience as a personal insurance adviser. He provides individuals, couples, and families with home, auto, and umbrella insurance. His ultimate goal is to be his clients’ trusted adviser and expert, so they have the peace of mind and protection they deserve.