10 tips for teen drivers and their parents

10 tips for teen drivers and their parents

 

Aug 28, 2012 9:00 AM

 

It's back-to-school time and many young, relatively inexperienced drivers are headed off to college or will be using the car to get to high school and other activities. Before school season is back in full swing, these tips can underscore the habits that can help make them safer drivers:

  1. Buckle up. Besides being the law, seat belts have been proven to save lives, but the message is not getting through to all young drivers. In fatal crashes of 16-20 year olds, 60 percent were unbuckled at the time of the crash. A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that these drivers were most likely to think that belts were potentially harmful.
  2. Hang up the phone. The risk of talking or texting while driving is high, especially for young people. Eleven percent of drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were distracted.
  3. Slow down. Teens tend to have the need for speed due to their impulsive nature and poor judgment. Thirty-seven percent of male drivers between the ages of 15-20 were speeding right before their fatal crash.
  4. Don't drink and drive. While young drivers are less likely than adults to drive after drinking, when they do, their crash risk is significantly higher due to the alcohol effects combined with their lack of driving experience. However, progress has been made. Since 1982, the number of drivers between the ages of 16-20 who were killed from driving drunk dropped 26 percent.
  5. Be prepared. Before you head out, especially on a long trip, pack an emergency kit in your trunk. Items such as a flashlight, jumper cables, and first-aid kit are helpful to have just in case. (See our recommendations for an emergency kit.)
  6. Limit night driving. Graduated driver licensing programs place limits on night driving and for good reason. In 2010, 17 percent of teenagers' fatalities occurred between 9 p.m. and midnight, and 24 percent occurred between midnight and 6 a.m.
  7. Watch the weather. In inclement weather, it is even more dangerous for a young driver to be on the road due to their inexperience handling the car in those situations. Teach your child how to confidently handle weather challenges. Consider sending the teen to a driving school to learn car control techniques in a safe environment, preparing them to manage a skid or hydroplaning incident before they are faced with such challenges alone.
  8. Limit passengers. The more passengers in a vehicle the higher the fatal crash risk. With three or more, the fatal crash risk is about four times higher than when a beginner drives alone. Studies also show that teens with passengers are more likely to take risks and be distracted, and when things go wrong, the tragedy is multiplied.
  9. Drive the right car. Many parents buy an inexpensive, old car for their teen or pass on a hand-me-down well past its prime. Likely, those do not have the latest safety features such as electronic stability control and side-curtain air bags that are especially important for young drivers. Check out our list of the best new and used cars for teens to find reliable and affordable models.
  10. Create rules. In addition to your state's graduated licensing program, set up a parent/teen contract and outline your own rules and penalties if they are broken. Take the keys away if necessary.

Learn more in our guide to teen driving.

—Liza Barth

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