10 Safety Tips for Teen Drivers

May is Global Youth Traffic Safety Month, a time where communities come together to bring more awareness to safety issues impacting teens on the road.

If you have a teen who is approaching driving age, or perhaps already has a driver’s license, you’re probably experiencing a range of emotions: pride, because your child has gone through a major rite of passage on the way to adulthood and fear that perhaps your young driver might not be as ready for the road as you would like.

To help ease your mind, we have put together a list of 10 safety tips for teen drivers. From addressing distracted driving to tips for undertaking emergency car repairs, these guidelines will increase the odds that your teen driver will be better prepared to face the challenges that come with getting behind the wheel.

For You

Set an example. If you want your teen to wear a seatbelt, drive defensively but not aggressively and not use the phone when driving, then wear your seatbelt, drive defensively but not aggressively, and don’t use your phone when driving.

Establish limits on time, distance and number of passengers. The Pennsylvania DOT’s “Teen Safety Tips” article recommends limiting how far and how long your teen can drive, and then gradually increasing both. You might also want to limit the number of passengers in the car with your teen, since the more kids in the vehicle, the greater the chance your teen will get distracted. (For more advice, download The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program Guidebook.)

WHN TIP – Know Your State’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Laws: These can vary from state to state, and cover the Learner Stage (supervised driving, culminating with a driving test), Intermediate Stage (limiting unsupervised driving in high-risk situations) and Full Privilege Stage (a standard driver’s license.)

Use a supervised driving log. To ensure compliance with your state’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Laws, use the driving log in The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program Guidebook. You can also download the free RoadReady mobile app from State Farm to log supervised driving time and learn safe driving practices.

WHN TIP – Be a “Parent Passenger”: After the supervised driving time is over, periodically let your teen act as your chauffeur so you can evaluate how well the road rules are being followed.

Cover personal safety strategies. Drivers exhibiting “road rage,” carjackers and innocent-looking hitchhikers all pose dangers for your teen driver. Edmunds “Personal Safety for Teen Drivers” covers six issues your new driver should know how to deal with.

Draw up a formal Teen Driving Contract. This clearly defines the rules and consequences associated with driving privileges. (Download INSURE U’s “Teen Driving Contract.” INSURE U – Get Smart About Insurance is a public education program created by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to assist consumers with information about insurance issues.)

For Your Teen Driver

Put down the phone. In many states, laws have been implemented regarding using the phone while driving to talk or text. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, 15 states plus D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban the use of handheld cell phones, and 47 states, plus D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers, with Missouri prohibiting text messaging by novice or teen drivers. While no state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, 38 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice or teen drivers, and 21 states and D.C. prohibit any cell phone use for school bus drivers.

Keep your eyes on the road. On the subject of distracted driving, keeping your eyes and attention on the road can help minimize potentially deadly “surprises.” It doesn’t take much: a few seconds spent reaching for your burger, talking to a passenger or hunting for something in your handbag or backpack can take your eyes off traffic and leave you unprepared for any hazards or sudden stops by other drivers.

Be a “defensive driver.” Don’t tailgate—DMV.org recommends keeping at one car length between you and the car ahead of you at slower speeds, and greater space when traveling faster. When driving in hazardous weather conditions, allow even more space and slow down to below the posted speed limit. If you’re being tailgated, allow the vehicle to pass you or if necessary, pull off the road. Don’t jam on the brakes or engage in other aggressive acts.

WHN TIP – The 3-Second Rule: Not sure if you’re too close to the vehicle in front of you? The 3-second rule is a good one to follow: first, pick a fixed object on the road ahead, then when the vehicle in front of you passes that object, start counting (one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three). If you reach the object before you finish counting, you need to slow down.

Prepare for seasonal changes. If you learned to drive in the spring, the icy road conditions the following winter may catch you unawares. Get some winter driving experience under your belt by having your parent or another trusted adult take you to a vacant parking lot, ideally one that hasn’t been cleared of snow and ice, so you can practice driving, turning, and stopping in the snow. Driving in rain? Watch out for slick roads that can make your car hydroplane, If it happens, don’t slam on the brakes. Take your foot off the accelerator and keep the steering wheel in place, and let your car coast until you get traction again. (Watch this ABC News YouTube video that shows what to do when hydroplaning occurs.)

WHN TIP – Learn More Rain/Winter Driving Tips: Our Driving in the Winter, 26 Tips for Safe Driving in the Rain and 5 Safe Driving Tips articles have more weather-specific driving information.

Learn basic car repair tips. Flat tire? Dead battery? Frozen door lock? These can happen to anyone, not just teens. Make sure your young driver knows what to do in the case of a vehicle problem. Download AutoMD’s Teen Driver Car Maintenance and Repair Guide—a comprehensive online automotive repair resource designed to empower car owners with the best way to repair their vehicles. Also, check out AAA’s YouTube videos and Car Maintenance videos for more tips.

WHN TIP — Be Ready for Accidents. Keep a copy of the following forms in your glove compartment just in case: Car Accident-No Other Driver Involved and Car Accident-Another Driver Involved. Also, download the free Red Cross first aid mobile app – just in case!