Keeping Teen Drivers Safe: A Guide for Parents & Caregivers

Learning to drive is a rite of passage for any teen. Driving represents a move from childish activities to more adult responsibilities. However, teen drivers have unique qualities that make driving riskier. This guide will explain how parents and caregivers can help their teens drive safely.

The Facts About Teen Drivers

Most parents know that adding a teen to an auto insurance policy can cause a premium to skyrocket. While parents might cringe at the extra funds, as it turns out, the insurance companies have good reason for charging more to cover teen drivers.

Teenage drivers are far more likely than adult drivers to be involved in accidents. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that teen drivers are more likely to get into accidents than any other age group. In fact, the CDC found that teenage drivers were three times more likely than adults to be involved in a fatal crash.

While the national situation is cause for concern, the situation in Alabama might be worse. In 2014, Alabama ranked fifth in the nation for teen driver fatalities. By 2019, Alabama still ranked twelfth in the nation for fatal teen motor vehicle accidents. So, while things have improved, parents and communities must work to give Alabama teens the tools they need to drive safely.

The Three Major Causes of Teen Car Crashes

Before giving tips about keeping teen drivers safe, it will be helpful to learn some of the reasons why teen drivers get into more car crashes than adults. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, three major factors contribute to fatal car accidents. These three are alcohol use, the failure to use seatbelts, and driving while distracted.

Obviously, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to drink alcohol. Yet, in 2010, the CDC found while the rate of teen alcohol use had fallen,20 percent of teen drivers in fatal crashes had used alcohol.  Worse, they tended to drink more than adults who decided to drink and drive.

Distracted driving is a bad habit for any driver. Yet, teen drivers tend to engage in distractions more than adults. In one study, over forty percent of teen drivers admitted to texting while driving.

Finally, studies have found that teen drivers are far less likely to wear seatbelts. One study found that only 51 percent of teens wore their seatbelts during every trip.

Other Causes of Teen Car Accidents

In addition to the above, several other factors place teen drivers at risk. These include:

  • Inexperience. In Alabama, teens can get a provisional license after just 30 hours of driving practice. But experts note that it can take months, days, or even years before teen drivers develop the skills they need to drive safely. Inexperienced drivers often overestimate their skills while underestimating hazards such as rain and snow. Teen drivers in the first months after getting licensed have some of the highest accident rates.
  • Immaturity. The human brain doesn’t finish developing until age 25. Because their brains are not fully developed, teen drivers are more likely to ignore risks and engage in reckless behavior.
  • Their passengers. Teens tend to ride with other teens. However, this is dangerous for two reasons. One, boisterous conversations, loud music, and other teen activities can distract teens and lead to accidents. Two, experts note that peer pressure makes teens far more likely take unnecessary risks. One study found that teens are nearly three times as likely to drive recklessly when they have teen passengers.
  • Speeding. Teens are far more likely than older drivers to ignore speed limits.
  • Time of Day and Week. Unlike the other factors, teens cannot control the time of day. However, the CDC reports that 40% of fatal teen motor vehicle crashes happened between 9 pm and 6 am. The CDC also found that over fifty percent of crashes occurred on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

How Parents Can Keep Teen Drivers Safe

While these numbers are enough to convince any parent that teens should never drive, the reality is more complex. It’s true that teens are more likely to be involved in accidents. However, with the proper support, teens can be safe drivers. Here are some steps parents can take toward keeping teen drivers safe.

  1. Give your teen hours of driving practice. Driver’s education courses are essential. But even the best driver’s ed class won’t provide the hours of practice teens need to become safe drivers. Allow your teen to practice often under safe conditions. If you are in the car, try not make the child nervous. Be a patient teacher.
  2. Talk to your teen about alcohol and drugs. Make sure that your teen knows that underage drinking is not only dangerous, it is illegal. Discuss your household rules and values around alcohol and drugs.
  3. Insist that your teen wear a seatbelt at all times. Tell your teen that seatbelts save lives. Explain that even one trip without a seatbelt is one too many.
  4. Forbid all distracted driving. Let your teen know that if the phone is used while driving, you will take the phone. You might also consider making your teen download an app that prevents distractions.  
  5. Do not allow your teen to drive with other teens. Any violation of this rule should lead to the immediate loss of car keys.  
  6. Limit your teen’s night and weekend trips. While parents need not completely prohibit teens from driving at night or on weekends, try to keep these trips to a minimum.
  7. Model good behavior. Any parent knows that children are far more likely to do what they see than what they are told. Set a good example by following the rules you set for your teen.
  8. Make your teen sign a driving contract. Signing a contract can help teens understand that driving a huge responsibility. It can also help parents avoid sticky situations and messy arguments by clearly setting forth, in advance, what the punishments will be for breaking the rules. (A sample teen driver contract can be found here.)  

While these rules are a good starting point, every parent and household should develop rules that fit their lives and their child’s unique needs.

More Questions About Keeping Teen Drivers Safe?

Teaching a teen to drive can be difficult for any parent. However, parents can teach teens to use their newfound freedom in a responsible way. If you have more questions about driving safety or need a personal injury attorney, contact Collins Law, LLC today.