Do you remember your first year’s driving? Did you know that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds? Research shows that more than half of teens who die in crashes are passengers, most were not wearing a seatbelt.
The two factors to the high crash rate in teens are immaturity and lack of driving experience. Teens tend to engage in risky behavior—eating, text messaging, talking to friends in the car—and often without wearing their seatbelts.
How does a parent ensure the safety of their inexperienced teenage driver? The Insurance Information Institute recommends parents take the following steps.
Pick a Safe Car
You and your teenager are encouraged to choose a car that is easy to drive and offer protection in a crash. Avoid small cars and those with high performance images that might encourage speed. Trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) should also be avoided, since they are more prone to rollovers.
Sign Up for a Drivers Education Course
The more driving practice the better; experience will give your teen confidence behind the wheel. A teen who has learned to drive through a education course is viewed more favorably by insurers and can earn a discount. In some states, teens must take a drivers education course to get a license at age 16.
Enroll Your Teen in a Safe Driver Program
Check whether your insurance company offers a “safe driver” program. Teen participants sign parent-teen driving contracts that outline the driver’s responsibilities and the consequences of failure to meet expectations. If your teenager completes the program, you may be eligible for a discount.
Insurance companies are helping to reduce the number of accidents by subsidizing the cost of electronic devices, such as GPS systems, which can monitor the way teens drive and alert parents of unsafe driving.
Discuss the Dangers of Drug and Alcohol Use
Advise teens never to drink or do drugs, and not to get in a car if the driver has used drugs or alcohol. Encourage your teen to call you to ensure they have a safe way home.
Understand the Dangers of Distracted Driving
Talk to your teen about the importance of never phoning or texting while driving. Teens should also be responsible passengers when in their friends’ cars. New drivers should wait 1,000 miles or six months before picking up their first teen passenger.
Enroll Your Teen in a Graduated Drivers License Program
Many states have been successful in reducing teen accidents by enacting graduated drivers license (GDL) legislation. These laws, include a three-phase program, allowing teen drivers to gain more experience behind the wheel. New drivers are restricted from certain activities, such as late-night driving, until they have had their licenses for a set period. For more information on GDLs, visit www.iihs.org.
Parents should take an active role in their teenagers’ driving and expose them to driving in a variety of conditions to build experience. Allow independent driving only after continued practice, including night driving and driving in difficult weather.
Keep in mind, teens may not get to the appropriate level of maturity to handle a drivers license at the same time. Parents should consider whether teens are easily distracted, nervous or risk takers before allowing them to get a license.