Teen Driving: 6 Essential Safety Tips

So your son or daughter is approaching driving age — how’d that happen so fast? No doubt your teen is desperate to be given the keys to the family car, or perhaps for a car of his or her own. It’s something that most parents face with varying degrees of anticipation and dread. So in honor of National Youth Traffic Safety Month®, here are a few teen driving tips for helping them make the transition to “driver” as smoothly and safely as possible.

1. Getting started

Say you’ve got an eager beaver with driving fever, but she’s not yet the minimum age for a permit. She can get started on safety early with a fun online driving class. Driver-ZED™ is a cool interactive DVD that puts teens in the virtual driver’s seat and is a great way to instill a few safety basics before they ever hit the road (or driveway, or parking lot).

2. The drivers permit

The age at which your teen can apply for a learner’s permit varies by state. Remember Drivers Ed in high school? Your teen may want to sign up (it’s required in some states), which can make it easier to get the permit and can potentially lower insurance costs. In any case, he or she will need to study the DMV manual to learn the all-important rules of the road and pass the written exam.

3. Insurance

Before your teen starts driving, contact your insurance company about requirements in your state. Car insurance for your teen doesn’t have to be expensive, so ask about ways you can save money on your teen’s policy, such as a Good Student discount.

4. Practice driving

Once they have their permits, they’re ready to start practicing (oh no!). Teaching your kids to drive is a time-honored, albeit sometimes tense, rite of passage. And while many state DMVs offer helpful lesson plans, you might feel more secure signing your teen up for driving school. This will help keep your car and your relationship with your teen intact — check with your local DMV for approved schools.

5. Talk about safety

You’ll also want to have a serious heart-to-heart with your teen about safety and responsibility. Things most of us take for granted, such as always wearing a seat belt, observing the speed limit, and not driving when tired or upset, need to be driven home to teens.

Distracted driving — which can include eating, putting on makeup, or adjusting the music, not to mention the big ones like texting or talking on the phone — is extremely dangerous and often illegal. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.

Using a phone while driving, even if it’s hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent (Source: University of Utah). And according to the California DMV, teen drivers failed 54 percent of driving tasks, including avoiding a swerving vehicle, while talking on the phone.

Last, but certainly not least, make sure your teen agrees never ever to drive when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

6. Parent-teen driving contract

Before you set your child loose with the keys to the car and a full tank of gas, set boundaries by putting a contract in place. This will make him or her understand that you mean business (before anything goes wrong). You can use a complex or simple contract, just make sure you both sign it.

There. Now don’t you feel a lot more confident about the whole process? No? We understand. Seeing your son or daughter grow up is both joyful and painful. But with good planning, ground rules, and communication, helping your teen learn to drive safely should be one of the joys.

Additional Resources

Esurance Insight: Teen Drivers and Their Car Insurance
IIHS US map of minimum age for unsupervised driving
IIHS US map of nighttime driving restrictions
IIHS US map of restrictions on passengers for drivers with intermediate state licenses

Top 7 Driving Phobias (And How To Conquer Them)

April was Distracted Driving Month, which got us wondering, are people distracted by their driving phobias? So we polled our Facebook community to learn more about what exactly gives them the behind-the-wheel heebie-jeebies. Here’s what they said shakes them up:

  • 27% Driving on mountain roads without guard rails
  • 27% Driving in bad weather (ice, snow, and rain)
  • 20% Driving near large trucks
  • 4% Becoming unable to drive
  • 4% Driving over bridges
  • 3% Driving near intoxicated drivers
  • 1% Veering off the road (uncontrollably)
  • 1% Fearing that the hood latch would suddenly release

If any of these driving anxieties sound familiar, here are some tips for staying calm on the road (no matter what happens):

Consider taking driving lessons, even if you’re a pro.

A good instructor can guide you through driving situations that make you feel uncomfortable and help you bolster your confidence. As an added bonus, some insurance companies (like yours truly) offer a discount for taking a defensive driving course. See discounts in your state.

Be a defensive driver.

Driving with a reasonable level of caution will help you stay out of harm’s way and effectively steer clear of unnecessary anxiety.

Understand bad weather basics.

If black ice and winter storms make you especially tense, brush up on storm driving techniques (our blog is loaded with winter driving tips!). It’s also a good idea to refresh yourself on what to do if you’re caught hydroplaning.

Pull over and breathe.

Sounds too simple, but sometimes just focusing on your breathing helps relieve anxiety and distraction.

If you tend to get freaked out behind the wheel every once in a while, we hope these tips will help you enjoy the drive. And for the 13 percent who said you “ain’t scared!” of anything, hats off to you, you brazen road warriors!

How do you overcome your driving anxiety? Send us a tweet or post on our wall to share your tips.