There’s probably nothing more exciting for a teenager than getting a driver’s license. That feeling of being independent, hanging out with friends, going places on a whim, and just having fun—it’s a big step in growing up, and it’s pretty cool. As a parent, of course, you want your teen to have fun, but you also want them to be safe and responsible…what to do, what to do? Check out these handy driving tips for teens from your friends at KL; that’s what you should do! They’ll help your teen drive safely while enjoying the privilege, responsibility, and fun of operating a motor vehicle.
1. Get a car with modern safety features
Buying a beater, an inexpensive old car, or using a hand-me-down vehicle for your teen’s first car is really tempting—however, you want to make sure it has modern safety features. Electronic stability control, side-curtain airbags, and a backup camera are all useful features for a teen driver and might just prevent an accident. Lane departure warning is another great feature if you can find an affordable and reliable used car with this option. Of course, you also want to choose a vehicle your teen feels safe in, is easy to drive, and has great visibility from a driver’s vantage point.
2. Learn about the car’s features
Once you’ve lined up that first car, take the time to go over all the important features with your teen. The “quick reference guide” in the car’s manual is a great place to start. Review features like hazard lights, bright lights, fog lights, interior lights, etc. And, of course, learn all about the various hazard and warning lights displayed on the dash and how to change the windshield wiper settings. You’ll also want to locate the car’s emergency kit and spare tire and demonstrate how to change a tire, check fluid levels, and tire tread depth or inflation. Give your teen (and yourself) a little extra piece of mind by investing in an emergency kit with lights and necessary road signs. You can get these at any large discount store or auto parts supply store; they’re a great investment for a relatively small amount of money.
3. Adjust the driver’s controls, seat, and mirrors
If your teen is driving your car, chances are everything in the car is adjusted for your comfort and visibility. Have your teen change these settings (on some cars, settings can be memorized for each driver) to suit their needs. Check that all the mirrors offer great visibility and that the brake, accelerator, and clutch (if you have a manual car) are all within easy reach of your young driver’s feet.
4. Buckle up
It seems like a no-brainer but remind your teen that buckling up saves lives. Establish a ritual, maybe tapping on the seat belt clasp after it’s clicked into place, turning on the car, looking left, right, and then finally in the rearview mirror before moving the vehicle. Whatever it is, it should be a simple sequence of movements that become second nature, so they’re easy to do. Also, remind them that everyone in the car should buckle up before the car begins to move—and even when the car is stationary, passengers should still wear their safety belts.
5. Don’t text or talk on the phone while driving.
Many states, 48 of them at last count, have made it illegal to text or talk on the phone while driving. Even talking legally (in some states) via Bluetooth “hands-free” through a car’s stereo system is distracting while driving—especially for teens. Driving distracted is dangerous and is the leading cause of most teenage driving fatalities. Remind your teen that if they need to call someone in case of an emergency, pull over to the side of the road or somewhere safe, then place the call. Luckily, now most phones have automatic “do not disturb” settings that sense when a phone is in a moving vehicle and stops texts and calls from interrupting the driver. A teen can activate this feature on their smartphone before driving if it doesn’t come on automatically.
6. Don’t drive drunk or high
It goes without saying that your teen should never drink and drive or ride with anyone who has been drinking or using drugs. Drunk driving is the second highest cause of fatalities amongst teen drivers, and now that Cannabis is legal in many states, accident statistics for driving while high are sure to follow suit. Driving under the influence, in general, is a bad idea. Create rules for your teen, and don’t be afraid to be strict with punishment and take away keys.
7. Limit the number of passengers in the car
Distracted driving is the leading cause of accidents involving teens. Everyone knows that part of the excitement of getting your first driver’s license comes from driving your friends around and having that feeling of adventure and independence. However, it’s best to have your teen practice driving alone until they’re competent and comfortable enough to add passengers.
8. Stick to posted speed limits
Sticking to posted speed limits saves lives and eliminates needless fines from speeding tickets. Driving under or at the speed limit also lessens the damage in the event of a potential crash. Stress the importance of “arriving alive” to your teen whenever it seems like they might be in a hurry to get somewhere. Be prepared to remind them a lot.
9. Keep a safe distance from other drivers
Rear-end collisions make up a huge portion of total injury crashes for teens. Remind your young driver to allow plenty of distance between them and the car ahead and to anticipate sudden stops before they occur. Put turn signals on early and brake gradually to give other drivers an indication as to where they’re going or if they’re going to stop. Be a proactive driver and check blind spots often before changing lanes. Driving defensively is the best skill a young driver can learn, and if you want, you can enroll them in a defensive driving school, where they’ll learn all the tips, skills, and tricks to drive smartly and safely.
10. Limit nighttime driving and driving in bad weather
Limit your teen’s driving practice to the daytime hours. The accident rate for teens driving at night is three times as high as the daytime rate. Provisional licenses, which are in effect for many states, limit the hours teenagers can drive until they reach a certain age. Check with your DMV to see the laws and restrictions in your state for teen drivers. Also, teach your teen how to handle driving in inclement weather or send them to a driving school where they can safely learn to handle unexpected slides, skids, or hydroplaning. Until they can confidently and skillfully handle heavy rain, flooding, and high winds, limit their driving during these bad weather events.
Keep calm and carry on
Keep calm when you’re in the passenger seat instructing your young driver. It can be a nerve-wracking time for you but keeping your cool helps your inexperienced driver do the same. Educate your teen with safety tips and help them spot potential distractions while driving. Turn off the radio and make it a great time to bond and learn a lesson. You probably have loads of stories to share about how you learned a trick to parallel park or how driving defensively kept you from having an accident. Share those! And don’t get upset if your teen makes a mistake. Make a mental note of it or if it’s a big mistake, pull over and discuss it calmly, switch drivers and go home. And offer plenty of positive encouragement; you’re the best role model for your child since they’ve been watching you drive their entire life.
These driving tips will help your teen stay safe on the roads as they gain confidence and experience as a driver. And we know they’ll also offer you peace of mind as a parent as your child sets off on the road to independence.