Back to School: Safe Driving Tips for Teens

If your teen recently completed your state’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) program and is heading back to school or off to college alone behind the wheel, now is the time to discuss teenage driving safety. Our teen driving tips can help.

Watching your teenager turn out of the driveway and into traffic for the very first time without you next to them is a bittersweet moment — and one that most parents can’t help but dread, and for good reason. Statistically, the risk of drivers from age 16 to 19 being involved in a motor vehicle crash is higher than that of drivers of any other age, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Some back-to-school tips for new drivers can help your teen practice safe driving.

Understand the Responsibility

Teenagers tend to be fearless and see little or no danger in the things they do. One of the most important tips for first time drivers is to understand the responsibilities of being behind the wheel. This includes knowing just how much harm can come from one little mistake. Be prepared with statistics and stories concerning teen drivers, especially when it comes to distracted driving and the consequences of not paying full attention to one’s surroundings on the road.

Know the Rules

Even though your child has made it through your state’s GDL program, you still need to be certain they understand the rules of the road and any rules you impose on them while they’re driving. This might include leaving their cell phone off while the car is in motion and avoiding having additional passengers on board, for instance. Be sure your teen is aware of any penalties that your state imposes for texting or talking on a phone while behind the wheel.

Do Not Speed

Safe driving for teens requires staying within the posted speed limit. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speed was a factor in 27 percent of deadly crashes involving teen drivers in 2019. Teens who are just learning to drive may find it difficult to adequately judge how fast they’re going, how much time they need to allow for stopping, and how to properly brake when following other vehicles. Speeding can make all these driving tasks harder. Be sure to set a good example for your teen when you’re behind the wheel, too, by obeying the speed limit.

Avoid Distracted Driving

Teens must keep an eye on what’s going on around them on the roadway without any distractions to prevent them from making fast decisions. Distractions can pop up from anywhere, but the most common come from the buzz or chirp of your teen’s cell phone or a friend in the seat next to them. Encourage your child to take the National Safety Council’s Just Drive Pledge to reinforce their commitment to avoiding talking on the phone, texting, checking emails or browsing social media while driving. When driving with friends, teens should learn to practice focused driving while the car is in motion.

Take a Safe Driving Course

Most schools now offer driver’s education or safe driving courses that help your teen prepare for their role as a fully licensed driver. If your child’s school doesn’t offer any programs for new drivers, reach out to your state’s DMV to find a local course.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Prior to heading out on their own, your young driver should practice with you or another responsible adult next to them. Put a special emphasis on nighttime driving, which requires additional driving skills and experience. Provide ample opportunities for supervised driving (beyond those required by your state’s GDL), including chances to drive in all types of weather  and road conditions.

Be Weather Aware

It’s hard enough for experienced drivers to drive in inclement weather. Fog, heavy rain, ice and snow can all make for treacherous driving. Fog and rain can reduce visibility, and ice and snow can lead to reduced traction on the roadway. Limit your teen’s driving in bad weather until they are more experienced behind the wheel, and if they must drive, remind them to increase the distance between cars, slow down, and — above all — get off the road if it appears to be too dangerous for motorists.

Stay in Control

Your teen is in better control of their car if they keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the roadway ahead. Remind your teen to drive with both hands in the proper position on the steering wheel and to keep their eyes from drifting off the road. This will also help reduce distracted driving.

Be Mindful of School Zones

Driving to school each day requires knowing the special rules that apply in school zones. Because of the morning frenzy of teens, faculty, and others arriving at school, have your teen leave 10 to 15 minutes earlier than usual each morning. Remind your teen to always come to a complete stop when a school bus has its sign out or is flashing lights to indicate children are boarding/unboarding the bus or trying to cross the road.

No Alcohol or Drugs

Drunk driving remains the number one killer on the country’s roadways, with more than 10,100 people dying in alcohol-related fatal crashes in 2019. Teens are still learning about life, and this means that many of them experiment with alcohol and/or drugs, which affects their coordination, impulse control and judgment behind the wheel. Still, sources alarmingly report that teens consume alcohol and then operate motor vehicles more than 2 million times each month — and are responsible for around 17 percent of all alcohol-involved car wrecks. Take a clear stance against both, and cue your teen in on the statistics regarding driving under the influence.

Make It Click

Any list of tips for first-time drivers would be remiss if it didn’t call out the continued need to remind teens to always wear their seat belts. Of the more than 36,000 people who died in 2019 on our nation’s roadways, nearly half were not buckled up. Hopefully, you have instilled the need for your teen to buckle up for safety’s sake. If not, now is the time to require it. Seat belts can prevent your child and their passengers from being thrown from the vehicle during a crash. Also require that any passengers wear their seat belts, too, since the use of restraints cuts the risk of death for front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent. And in most states, it’s the law. To check your state’s seat belt laws, the Governors Highway Safety Association is a good resource.

Car Maintenance and Emergency Preparedness

And finally, one of the most important safe driving tips for teens you can offer your budding driver is to keep their car well-maintained and in safe operating condition. Teens should be taught:

  • What to listen for that may indicate a problem with their car and when to call Caliber Auto Care for help.
  • Normal tire pressure and how to check for it.
  • How to add wiper fluid to the car’s reservoir tank.
  • What to do in the event of a collision.
  • How to stock and maintain an emergency kit in the trunk of the car.

Be sure to go over these new driver tips with your teen often and keep reinforcing the concepts of safe driving for teens. Teens have a lot working against them when it comes to driving — they lack driving experience and skills, and they tend to speed and be easily distracted. Hopefully, with these tips for first-time drivers under their belt, your teen can make smart decisions and stay safe as they head back to school or elsewhere.

Above all, before school starts, remember to stop in your local Caliber Auto Care to get your teen’s car tuned up and ready for the back-to-school commute.

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