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.

Safe and smart | Car safety


about Kate

With more than 15 years' communication experience, Kate's a 10-year Esurance veteran, who’s spent the last 4 years as Internal Communications Manager. A transplanted New Yorker and one-time waitress, Kate was drawn to the Bay Area’s restaurant scene (where she likes to over-tip).