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Coaching Teen Drivers

Parents can help teenagers stay safe on the road by following a few guidelines.  

teen in the front seat holding the keys to the car, image
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Photo: Rob Marmion/Shutterstock
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Before you hand your teen the keys to the car, make sure you teach them how to be a safe driver.

Summer is high season for car crashes involving young drivers. All year long, drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are nearly three times more likely than other motorists to be involved in fatal collisions, but the number of teen road fatalities spikes an additional 20 percent between Memorial Day and Labor Day. When teens take the wheel, parents need to stress safety—not just for the summer, but for years to come. Here are some tips on how to do that.

Insist on education

Teens who participate in a formal driver education program are safer on the road. “Research confirms what conventional wisdom tells us: Driver education makes a difference,” says AAA automotive safety expert William Van Tassel. Young drivers who complete training receive 40 percent fewer traffic-related convictions than those who don’t attend a formal program.

Get expert guidance

Parents can sign up for the AAA StartSmart program, a series of timed newsletters that guide them through the job of teaching a new driver—perhaps the most critical instruction their children will ever have.

Monitor late bloomers

A growing number of teens wait a few years before getting licenses, which means they skip state-imposed graduated licensing requirements. But new drivers need limits and supervision, no matter their age. Studies show that an 18- or 19-year-old driver with a full license but little experience could be unprepared for unsupervised, unrestricted driving.

Practice to perfection

Make sure your teen has many chances to drive in different situations—interstate highways and busy streets, night and day, rain and shine—with you alongside to offer advice and support.

Be there for backup

It’s not legal, but it’s a fact of life that many teens drink alcohol. Make sure your teen knows that you will always provide a safe ride to keep him or her from driving drunk or riding with an impaired driver.

Get it in writing

A parent-teen driving agreement like the one AAA offers can help set clear expectations for everyone involved. Once you create a contract, be sure to update it as your new driver’s skills and maturity warrant more independence behind the wheel.

This article was first published in Summer 2015. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.