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Safety Tips: Teen Drivers

Nearly 4,000 drivers nationwide between the ages of 15 and 20 are killed in traffic crashes every year—the leading cause of death for this age group.

Young drivers lack the benefit of experience, and since they also tend to lack that healthy fear of death and dismemberment, they are predisposed to drive at high speeds and take unnecessary risks. Also, the overall judgment and decision-making skills of individuals in this age group are not fully developed, so if you are the parent of a teenager who wants to drive, you will have to establish some serious boundaries to guide your young driver.

First of all, respect the process of "graduated licensing." There is a good reason why state law requires young drivers to have a restricted license (or learner's permit) for a full year before getting a regular driver's license. Driving to school or work, or running errands for you are NOT allowable exceptions to the law.

Restricted driving allows them to accumulate experience under your supervision and in a controlled environment. As much as you might dread the passenger seat while your teen is behind the wheel, you should give them frequent opportunities to drive and gain as much experience as possible in your presence.

In addition to making sure they learn and obey all traffic laws, establish your own "house rules" for driving and discuss them with teens even before they get a license. Emphasize the following:

  • Driving is a privilege, not a right.
  • There is no law that gives any minor the right to drive or get a license. Until the age of 18, they need your authorization to get a license. You can (and should) require that they prove their ability to be a responsible driver by being a responsible student. That means maintaining good grades and acceptable behavior. A parent may request in writing to have a minor's license revoked at any time.
  • Regardless of age, if you feel your teen is not ready to drive or graduate from a restricted license to a regular one, just say "no" until you feel it’s right.
  • Even after your teen gets a regular license, the privilege of driving still comes under your authority. Give driving privileges in stages. Establish restrictions for each stage based on your teenager's history, behavior and your honest assessment of his level of maturity. Move to the next stage only after several months of a good driving record.
  • Demand that they NEVER drive while under the influence of alcohol or other substance, and promise an "amnesty" if they call you to pick them up instead of driving while intoxicated.
  • Don't allow your child to ride with other teen drivers who don't follow the same rules that you would demand of your own child.
  • Remember, YOU "hold the keys" to safety. Don’t hesitate to take away driving privileges if they break the rules and remind them that you don’t care what other parents allow, you only care about their safety.