Published: May 2, 2022Updated: August 16, 2022

Real Safety Advice for Teen Drivers and Their Parents

We asked real teenagers and their parents what advice they have on learning to drive.

Learning to drive isn’t just scary for teens; it’s also scary for their parents, who clutch the passenger-seat armrest with every twist and turn. That’s why we asked parents of teenage drivers and teen drivers themselves what advice they would give to young drivers and their parents. Some of the things they said might surprise you!

Real Advice for Teen Drivers

Real advice for teen drivers

Learning to drive for the first time makes teenagers high-risk drivers, one of the reasons why the cost of car insurance for teens is so high. So what advice do teenagers and former teenagers have for those currently learning to drive?

Don’t Be Reckless

For teenagers, driving is an exciting step toward independence, but they need to keep their state’s laws in mind.

“Don’t dismiss the rules,” said a 27-year-old driver we spoke to. “It can feel cool to gain confidence when learning to drive and taking your friends somewhere, showing off, and some might ask you to speed up or do something reckless. Don’t.”

Avoid Distractions

Distracted driving is dangerous for anyone, but for teenagers in particular.

“If you’re going for a driving lesson or you’ve just gotten your license, turn your phone off while in the car,” recommended a 19-year-old driver. “I used to get really distracted by it, especially if it pinged with a message or a call. So the best way to resist temptation is to just turn it off. My driving instructor once told me off for looking at my phone, and I really took it to heart.”

DID YOU KNOW?

According to our research on teens and distracted driving, by age 18, 60 percent of teen drivers text or email while driving, compared with only 16 percent of drivers ages 14 and 15. The difference is the parental supervision laws for learner’s permits versus driver’s licenses: Supervision isn’t required for the latter.

Scan the Road

One tenet of defensive driving is to scan your surroundings, like peering down intersecting streets and leaving a space between you and the car in front of you.

“Don’t just look at the road; you need to look at the rearview mirror and at what other cars are doing, and you need to make sure you’re extra careful if you see people near the road,” said a 17-year-old driver.

Slow Down

When we spoke to a 17-year-old in Germany who is the son of BankingGeek founder1 and CEO Max Benz, he warned of the dangers of speeding.

“I would say the best advice I can give to other teen drivers is to just be patient,” he said. “I know it can be tempting to want to go fast and show off a little bit, but ultimately, it’s not worth it. Speeding is one of the leading causes of accidents, and as a teen driver, you’re already at a higher risk. So just take your time, obey the speed limit, and be extra careful when merging or changing lanes.”

Age group Percentage of male speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2019 Percentage of female speeding drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2019
15-20 31% 17%
21-24 30% 18%
25-34 26% 15%
35-44 20% 11%
45-54 15% 9%
55-64 12% 7%
65-74 8% 6%
75 and older 8% 5%

The younger Benz’s advice is spot-on, especially for his demographic. In fact, teen boys ages 15 to 20 make up 31 percent of all speeding-related traffic fatalities, the plurality for any group, according to 2019 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).2

Wear the Right Shoes

You may not think driving shoes matter, but according to the 25-year-old daughter of Jennifer Denehy, co-founder and marketing director of PeopleSearchFaster3, they matter, particularly for teenage girls.

“Take your heels off, and keep a pair of flats on hand for the teen females,” said the former teen driver. “Long stilettos and heels frequently become jammed in the gas/brake pedals, throwing you off balance on the pedals. Simply change your shoes upon arrival at your location.”

Real Advice for Parents of Teen Drivers

Real advice for parents of teen drivers

Teen drivers aren’t the only ones that need advice. Teaching your child to drive can be nerve-wracking, to say the least. How can you stay calm enough to teach your child the rules of the road? To find out, we asked parents who have been through it themselves.

Trust Your Kids

Even though your heart may be racing, take a deep breath and put on a calm face in front of your teen.

“[Driving] is a normal step your teens are taking, and you need to trust them,” said Rachel Fink, founder of the Parenting Pod website4. “Babying a teen when they are learning to drive is what can often cause them to ’rebel’ by not being as careful as they should be.”

Fink has plenty of experience — she’s a mom to seven, including five licensed drivers ages 27, 25, 21, 19, and 17.

Be Patient

Teaching your teen to drive isn’t a one-step process. It takes time, just like learning any new skill.

“First, it is important to be patient and understand that learning to drive takes time,” said Max Benz. “It is also helpful to give clear and concise directions using positive language.”

Again, even if you’re feeling negative and impatient on the inside, project a calm demeanor.

Send Them to Driver’s Ed

Do you go into fight-or-flight mode every time you get into your teenager’s car? If so, you should consider enrolling them in a driver’s ed or defensive driving class if you can afford it.

“If you can afford a driving school, do it!” said Annita Claire5, a parent to two high-schoolers based in Georgia. “It is very scary riding with your child in the beginning, and your anxiety impacts them heavily. Giving them some practice with someone who is calm gives them confidence behind the wheel, which makes them safer drivers.”

You can look for a driving school near you through local business directories like Yelp. You may even be able to lower your auto insurance premium if your provider offers a discount for driver’s education courses.

Practice Regularly

If formal driving lessons fall outside your budget or you’re a more DIY parent, you can practice with your child.

“If you cannot afford [private instruction], start driving in parking lots and do not allow on-the-road driving for the first month or two,” Claire said. “It takes a lot of time to learn the feel of a car. How fast does it accelerate? How quickly does it brake? What is the turning radius? These are all things that can be learned in empty parking lots [to] build confidence.”

Start with the fundamentals, like driving straight and turning in empty parking lots, before moving on to low-speed, low-traffic areas.6

Set a Good Example

The phrase “do as I say, not as I do” does not apply to teaching your teen to be a safe driver. With driving, you want your child to follow your lead, provided you are demonstrating best practices.

“Set a good example with your own driving, and have your teen observe as part of their learning process,” Fink said. In other words, model safe driving, including wearing seat belts and not using your cell phone behind the wheel. And of course, don’t drink and drive.

Victoria Taylor, parent and founder of the Best Case Parenting website7, seconds this piece of advice. “The key is really being an example yourself and not using your phone when you’re in the car either. If you’re constantly on your phone, texting, or talking, your teen is going to think it’s OK. So be a role model for your kids, and put the phone away when you’re driving.”

You should avoid distracted driving behaviors like texting and driving in general, but it’s even more important when your teen driver is present.

Establish Ground Rules

In addition to teen driver laws, set your own ground rules when it comes to driving. Taylor suggested “[establishing] clear rules and expectations for your teen’s driving. For example, you may want to set a rule about not driving after dark or limiting the number of passengers they can have in the car … You might, for example, ban your adolescent driver from driving … during rush hour.”

Back up your rules with data. NHTSA data from 2019 showed that fatal speeding-related crashes were more common at night than during the day.

Time of day Percentage of speeding drivers killed in crashes in 2019 Percentage of speeding drivers killed in crashes on weekdays in 2019 Percentage of speeding drivers killed in crashes on weekends in 2019
Daytime 15% 13% 19%
Nighttime 20% 18% 21%
Nighttime difference 33% 38% 11%

Speeding drivers are 33 percent more likely to die in fatal crashes at night than during the daytime. The difference is even starker on weekdays, with a 38 percent greater likelihood of fatality while speeding at night than during the day. That’s why many states implement curfews for teen drivers.

But don’t be afraid to have your own rules at home on top of your state and local legislation. And if your child breaks the rules, like not using your car’s safety features or not remembering to carry their driver’s license, take away their driving privileges. Remember that driving is a privilege, not a right.

Help Them Avoid Distracted Driving

Rather than just telling your kids not to drive while distracted, give them specific advice on how to avoid multitasking. For example, explain how they can “quickly find somewhere to stop if they need to check their phone, rather than doing it while driving,” recommended Fink.

Think About Their Financial Involvement

How involved should your teen be in the auto insurance policy and maintenance that go along with owning or leasing a car? The parents we spoke to had a lot to say on this topic in particular. Ultimately, it’s your decision how financially responsible you want your teen to be regarding their vehicle, but here is what a few parents recommend.

Some parents put part of the financial responsibility in their child’s hands. “Our practice is that the child is responsible for one-third of the car insurance,” Claire said. “This investment helps them drive safely, because they know that if they get a ticket or cause an accident, their rates will go up and they will owe more. Additionally, if their rates do go up because of speeding or an accident, they are responsible for 100 percent of that increase in addition to the one-third they owe.”

“The decision to involve your teen in car insurance is largely parental,” Denehy said. “I added my daughter to my insurance, and she later paid the difference; this way, she would remain financially responsible while avoiding the exorbitant cost of insurance.”

Whatever you do, talk to your child not only about the rules of driving, but also about the process of owning or leasing a vehicle, from maintenance to the cost of auto insurance.

“The more teens know about all of the maintenance and financial aspects involved in having a car, the more informed they will be, and the more seriously they will take it when they learn to drive,” Fink said. “If your teen gets a car, they should 100 percent be involved in every single aspect of having that car, including car insurance.”

She continued, “In order to encourage responsibility, they should be a part of the process when searching for the right car insurance and filing all of the paperwork. Whether they pay for it or you do is … another topic altogether.”

Use Driver Monitoring Apps

Use driver monitoring apps

After your child gets their driver’s license, you may not be legally required to supervise their driving. However, there is a way you can stay involved, even if you’re not physically in the car with them.

Claire recommended the app Life360 (available for both iOS and Android devices), which “shows the speed [teens] are driving, how many hard brakes they have, and where they are going.” The app can detect crashes over 25 mph, send out emergency dispatch and roadside assistance, and monitor your teen’s speeds, miles, and even rapid accelerations. “It is a fabulous app,” Claire added. See below for pricing information.

Category Feature Free Gold Platinum
Location safety Days of location history 2 30 30
Location safety Place alerts 2 Unlimited Unlimited
Location safety Crime reports No Yes Yes
Location safety SOS help alert Yes Yes Yes
Driving safety Crash detection Yes Yes Yes
Driving safety Family driving summary Yes Yes Yes
Driving safety Individual driver reports No Yes Yes
Driving safety Roadside assistance No Yes Yes
Driving safety Miles of free towing 0 5 50
Driving safety Emergency dispatch No Yes Yes
Digital safety Data breach alerts Yes Yes Yes
Digital safety Identity theft protection No Yes Yes
Digital safety Stolen funds reimbursement $0 $25,000 $1,000,000
Digital safety Credit monitoring No No Yes
Emergency assistance Stolen phone protection N/A $250 $500
Emergency assistance Disaster response No No Yes
Emergency assistance Medical assistance No No Yes
Emergency assistance Travel support No No Yes
Trial Free trial (in days) N/A 7 7
Cost Cost per month N/A $9.99 $19.99
Cost Cost per year N/A $99.99 $199.99
Cost Yearly savings N/A $19.89 $39.898

FYI

Roadside assistance includes lockouts, tire changes, towing, jump starts, and refueling.

Life360 isn’t the only driver monitoring app, however. There are other options for both iPhones and Android devices.

Feature Driver Monitoring App Ryde.Safe Smooth Driver Monitoring and Mapping Life360
Location tracking Yes Yes Yes Yes
Trip logs Yes Yes Yes Yes
Driving behaviors Yes Yes Yes Yes
iOS rating None None 5 4.6
Android rating Not available for Android Not available for Android None 4.5

Recap

Unintentional injuries from incidents like car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens ages 15 to 199, so when it comes to parent-teen driving, you want to do your research before hitting the road. To learn more about teen driving for beginners, read about the learner’s permit requirements by state. For more information on teen driving in general, read our auto insurance FAQs below.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re just now teaching a teenager how to drive, you probably have a ton of questions floating around your head. We’re here to answer them.

The risks of passengers to teen drivers are crashes, injuries, and, in the worst case, deaths. According to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 15 percent of teen crashes involved an interaction with one or multiple passengers, the plurality of causes in crashes involving driver distractions. In this study, the bulk of the passengers were other teens.

In 2019, 1,995 teen drivers ages 16 to 19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That’s a rate of 12 deaths for every 100,000 people.

The average annual cost of insuring a teen driver is $3,751.02, 45 percent higher than the national average of $2,070.62 for all drivers.

These are some car brands that have a teen driver mode:

  • Buick
  • Cadillac
  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • GMC
  • Kia

Citations

  1. BankingGeek. (2022).https://bankinggeek.com/en/6548-2/

  2. Traffic Safety Facts. NHTSA. (2021, Oct).
    https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813194

  3. People Search Faster. Peoplesearchfaster. (2022).
    https://peoplesearchfaster.com/

  4. About Us. Parenting Pod. (2022).
    https://parentingpod.com/about/

  5. Claire Pearson Coaching. (2022). https://www.clairepearsoncoaching.com/

  6. Teen driving 101: a step-by-step test of essential driving skills. State Farm. (2022).
    https://www.statefarm.com/simple-insights/auto-and-vehicles/teen-driving-101-a-stepbystep-test-of-essential-skills

  7. Best Case Parenting. (2022). https://bestcaseparenting.com/

  8. Life360. (2022). https://www.life360.com/

  9. CDC Wonder. CDC. (2022).
    https://wonder.cdc.gov/controller/datarequest/D76;jsessionid=74D9B281D4DCA4752B0EFC79A5D4