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Teaching Your Teen to Drive: Tips to Keep Your Sanity and Him or Her Safe

Car accidents are the number one cause of death amongst this age group, according Life Family, with about 5,000 dying each year.

While most teenagers receive some formal education to prepare them for life on the road, your role as a parent can be the most influential in helping them develop safe driving habits.

If you have been tasked with this delicate situation, here are some tips to make things run smoothly, while instilling your teen with the information and skills that will minimize the risk of an accident.

2018 car fatalities by male and female teen drivers in the U.S.Illustrated above is the amount of teen driving fatalities for male and female drivers. Teen drivers who are male are twice as likely to be in automobile accident compared to females. Male drivers had 1,822 fatalities and females had 940.

Make a Plan

Before you and your teen hit the road, making a plan would serve you well.

Decide what specific things you want to cover on this outing and let your child know.

Tell her which specific skills she will be practicing today, and where you will be practicing them.

Even Allstate says: “Teaching your child to drive can be a wonderful bonding experience”.

A good thing to do is to familiarize them with vehicle such as:

  • Steering wheel adjustment
  • Mirror adjustment
  • Turn signals
  • Headlights
  • Airbags & seatbelts
  • Emergency lights & brakes
  • Warning indicator lights

Start Slow

No need to dive right into extensive, lengthy driving lessons right off the bat.

This is beneficial to both of you, actually.

You can ease yourself into a task that is probably a bit nerve-wracking, and your teen will feel less pressure and less nervous.

Teenage car accidents resulting in death by day of the week. Illustrated above is the amount of teenage automobile accidents resulting in death by day of the week. I put Saturday and Sunday in blue to highlight the significant difference from the rest of the week. According to statistics, a teen has higher chance of an auto accident resulting in death on Saturday and Sunday

Start with short lessons—maybe 15 or 20 minutes in good weather conditions and during the day.

Then move to night driving or driving in the rain or snow.

Make sure they pay attention to their surroundings and do the following:

  • Scan to each side
  • Continuously look for hazards
  • Proper safety space
  • Check mirrors

As you and your teen feel more comfortable, spend more time out in the car.

Many parents may take the approach that being silent implies your teen is doing well, and the only time to say something is when he makes a mistake.

But, this is not the best way.

You should be praising your teen for all the things he is doing right, and not just pointing out what he is doing wrong.

If he always remembers to put on his blinker, or at check his mirror before changing lanes, point out what a good job he is doing.

Complimenting the good moves will help reinforce these habits until they become second nature.

Critiquing your Teen

Now, for the criticism part.

Yes, your teen is new to driving and will make many mistakes.

It is important to point them out.

But, there are many different ways to do this, with some being more effective than others.

Here are a couple of things you “Do Not” want to while your teen is learning to drive:

  • Avoid sensitive issues while driving
  • Don’t use broad terms such as “you don’t listen”

Unless he is doing something in the moment that is truly dangerous, hold off on bringing it up right then and there.

Make a mental note of your observations and discuss them after the lesson is over.

My father, a professional driver, was the one administering my lessons and I remember many of them ending with my frustration and him screaming.

He taught me well for sure, but we both would have been better off with a less charged approach.

Teenage Vehicle Accidents

Below is a table of teen automobile accidents from 2011 to 2018.

I have combined teen deaths by year.

One thing I want to make note of is, every year the male death rate was nearly double to the female death rate.

Another item to notice is approximately 20% of fatalities resulted from alcohol.

Which is consistent year over year.

The total amount of teens injured in 2017 and 2018 stats are from the CDC.gov.

YearTeens Killed in Car AccidentsTeens Injured in Car Accidents% use of Alcohol
20182,475275,000+ approx18
20172,762300,000 approx18
20162,836244,00017
20152,823243,24319
20143,115221,31317
20132,524 236,00018
20122,228228,00019
20112,789211,000 21

Stay Aware

Most parents who are teaching their teens to drive are probably already doing this, but wanted to give you a reminder just in case.

Taking in everything about your surroundings is key to safe driving, but a skill that a new driver has definitely yet to master.

Many parents do not teach their teens about “safe space” or “space cushion” in high traffic roads. This is a defensive driver tactic. 

So, it is up to you to be hyper-vigilant about the environment.

You cannot rely on your teen to see everything he or she should be seeing.

Always Be on the Lookout for a Teaching Moment

The sad reality is, you will find no shortage of bonehead driving moves to use as teaching moments during your time on the road.

Keep an eye out for mistakes people are making and use this opportunity to discuss good and bad driving practices.

These situations are a great time to talk about defensive driving tactics.

Danger Zones for Teenagers to be Aware of

According to statistics, 16 to 17-year old’s are most likely to get into an automobile accident.

Teens drive less than all but the oldest people in the United States.

Therefore, at this age teen drivers are 3 times more likely to get into an auto accident.

Fortunately, states began to implement the graduated licensing system or GDL.

Below I have listed 8 reasons teen drivers are likely to get into a car accident which could result in a fatality.

Driver inexperienceDistracted driving
Driving with teen passengersDrowsy driving
Nighttime drivingReckless driving
Not using seat beltsImpaired driving

Teenage Driving Statistics by Year

2019 Teen Car Accident Statistics

Listed below are 2019 teenage accident statistics.

Trying to find this information is difficult as of June 2020.

The significant difference from previous years is the increase percentage of distracted driving resulting in an accident. 

2019 Teen Driver Stats
There were 2,524 motor vehicle related deaths among teens.
19% of teenage driver deaths were the result of distracted driving.
There was an 11% decrease from 2017 to 2018 in teen motor vehicle accidents.
Only 49% of high school students reported that they always wear a seat-belt.
22% of teens admitted that they had ridden with a driver that had been drinking alcohol.
An estimated 8 teens died per day in car accidents.
June had the highest amount of accident deaths in teens, resulting in 260 fatalities.

2018 Teen Car Accident Statistics

In 2018, teens accounted for 7% of all crash deaths in the United States.

Or nearly 10% in total.

For every automobile accident resulting in death, nearly 10% of them are teens.

Why is the significant?

Teen drivers are the smallest percentage of licensed drivers in the United States.

2018 Teen Driver Stats
There were 2,475 motor vehicle accidents among people age 13- to 19-years-old.
2,228 teenagers died in motor vehicle accidents in 2018.
Of all motor vehicle crash deaths, teenagers accounted for 8%.
In the first part of 2017, 176 16 – 19 year-old drivers died in car accidents.
Overall, 16- and 19-year-old driver deaths increased 19 percent from 2017.
Only 55% of high school students reported that they always wear a seat-belt.
14% of teenage driver deaths were the result of distracted driving.
Compared to all other days of the week, the most teen driving fatalities occurred on Friday and Saturday.

2017 Teen Car Accident Statistics

2017 teen driver statistics didn’t fair well for male drivers.

Approximately 2/3 of all fatalities were male drivers in 2017.

Out of the percentage of male drivers killed in an auto accident over 50% were not wearing a seatbelt. 

2017 Teen Driver Stats
2,762 teenagers died in car accidents.
About 2 out of every 3 teenagers killed in car accidents were males.
62% of teenage car accident fatalities were drivers.
59% of teenage passenger deaths occurred in vehicles driven by another teen.
17% of all deaths of passengers was when a teen was behind the wheel.
81% of teenage motor vehicle deaths were passengers.
55% of teen car crash deaths happened on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
54%, or 1,532, of the 2,763 teens killed in car accidents weren’t wearing a seat belt.
17% of fatal car accidents involving teens were related to texting and driving; distracted driving

Frequently Ask Questions

What is the best way to teach a teenager to drive?

It is important to build skills slowly.

Start in a parking lot then move to a quiet road then progress to a busy street. 

When comfortable, teach your teen to drive when it’s raining and in the snow.

At what age should I teach my child to drive?

In most states teens can get their leaner’s permit at the age of 15.

Coach teens to avoid glancing away from the road for more than 2 seconds.

Is it illegal to practice driving in a parking lot?

Teens can get ticket if he or she doesn’t have a permit while driving in a parking lot even with a parent in the vehicle.

If your teen doesn’t have a permit use private property.

What is the most overlooked skill while teaching a teen to drive?

The most overlooked skill is teaching teenage drivers to be aware of their surroundings.

Make sure teens are aware of their “safe space” in high traffic situations.

Sources

https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/teenagers

https://www.cdc.gov/teen-drivers/teendrivers-factsheet.html

https://www.statefarm.com/teen-driving-101-a-stepbystep-test-of-essential-skills

Greg Fowler

Greg Fowler

Managing Member of AutoInsureSavings LLC, Greg has been in the insurance industry for 12 years and enjoys rebuilding vehicles. His goal is to help drivers save on anything related to automobiles. Travel and enjoying the outdoors are some of his hobbies. The best way to reach him is at his Twitter or Facebook Profile.

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