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How to Put the Brakes...

How to Put the Brakes on Teen Crash Risks

Many high school students are anxious to get their driver’s licenses and claim a small piece of independence. Unfortunately, teens have the highest crash risk of any age group—about four times higher than experienced drivers. So, what can you do to help your teen stay safe?

1. Take the lead. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and other experts agree that parents should play a major role in preparing their teens for the road. You can’t rely solely on driving schools and instructors to teach your child to drive safely. Teaching your teen safe driving skills greatly reduces the risk of accidents. 

For example, research shows that when parents monitor their teens’ activities, such as knowing their comings and goings, teens are less likely to take risks such as smoking or drinking while driving. Teen traffic violations and car accidents decrease when parents limit when, where, and how frequently teens drive.

2. Practice what you preach. Teens learn a lot about driving skills and behavior from watching their parents. Set a good example by wearing your seat belt and avoiding risks behind the wheel.

3. Set rules for the road. Use state laws to set your own rules of the road—and enforce them. Though the laws differ, forty-one states and the District of Columbia have adopted a three-step approach called graduated licensing:

  • Learner’s permit.
  • Intermediate or provisional phase.
  • Full-privilege license.

Most states limit night driving and the number of teen passengers allowed. And more than a dozen require at least fifty hours of supervised driving with an adult before teens can drive on their own. If your state hasn’t adopted graduated licensing, visit Iihs.org for more information, and then develop your own approach.


4. Put it in writing. Many parents and teens use a “driving contract” to spell out expectations for safe driving behavior—and consequences for breaking the rules. Both the teen and the parent should sign the contract and agree to abide by certain rules, such as not using a cell phone while driving and always wearing a seat belt.

Free Safe-Driving Packet for Parents and Teens
The USAA Educational Foundation*, a nonprofit organization, offers free vehicle safety information, including the Keeping Every Youth Safe (K.E.Y.S.) Packet that contains the following materials to help you teach your teen safe-driving skills:

  • Behind the Wheel
  • Parent and Teen Safe-Driving Agreement
  • On the Road (DVD)
  • Cost of Driving

To order your free packet, visit Usaaedfoundation.org. Though it may be stressful, get involved with your teen’s lessons. You’ll steer the way to keeping the roads safer for your teen and others.

Originally published on USAA


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