Parenting a new driver is often both exciting and nerve wracking. While your son or daughter may enjoy the new freedom they feel behind the wheel, you're probably more concerned about keeping them safe and avoiding accidents or traffic tickets. That's normal -- and not unwarranted.
As new, inexperienced, and sometimes reckless teen drivers hit the road, mistakes are inevitable. That's why the early years of driving are without a doubt the most dangerous. Research shows that young drivers will be involved in fatal car crashes at double the rate of all other drivers.
And while handing car keys over to your teen driver may be axiety inducing with good reason, it doesn't have to be. As a parent, you can encourage your son or daughter to learn how to drive safely, and even set ground rules for vehicle usage that require safe driving. Plus, it's a great idea to enroll your teen driver in a defensive driving course to improve their driving skills and help them learn effective techniqes for safe, defensive driving.
Defensive Driving Courses for Teenagers
Many people think of defensive driving simply as a tool for getting out of traffic tickets or reducing driver's license points. And while defensive driving courses do offer an effective way to settle moving violations in many states, they are also an excellent educational resource for young drivers.
Teens who have gone through driving school have learned how to drive, and have probably had instruction in defensive driving and safety. But a defensive driving course offers additional education, specificially in curriculum that is designed to teach your teenager how to drive safely.
It's a great idea to encourage your young driver to enroll in a defensive driving course to further improve their knowledge of safe driving. You can also use defensive driving courses as a resource for young drivers who have been behind the wheel for a few months or years, but may need a refresher course in safe driving.
What Defensive Driving Can Teach Your Teenage Driver
Defensive driving goes beyond what driver instruction courses can offer, and specifically teaches your teen the important details of safe driving. Most defensive driving courses include instruction in:
- Crash avoidance techniques
- Proper use of safety equipment including seat belts and air bags
- Safe driving habits like using proper following distance and scanning roadways
- Avoiding distracted driving
- Dealing with road rage and aggressive drivers
- Avoiding alcohol or drugs while driving
- Identification of risky driving habits
- State driving laws and regulations
The Benefits of Enrolling Teenage Drivers in Defensive Driving
Your teenager can become a better driver by enrolling in and completing a defensive driving course. This is a great way to learn more about safe driving, or simply get a refresher if it has been a while since they've completed driver instruction -- or if they've had trouble like a ticket or an accident.
In addition to the benefit of safer driving, teenage drivers who voluntarily enroll in defensive driving (as in, without earning a ticket first), may be eligible for a discount on insurance rates. Often, insurance companies will offer drivers a discount of up to 20% for completing a defensive driving course voluntarily. While some restrict this benefit to mature drivers over the age of 50 or 55, many are available to teenagers as well. Contact your insurance company to find out if this is an option for your family.
Setting a Good Example as a Safe Driver
You can talk to your teenager until you're blue in the face about safe, defensive driving, but nothing speaks louder and more effectively than simply exhibiting good driving habits yourself. Show your children what safe driving looks like by practicing these defensive driving techniques:
- Never drive distracted: Many teens use their phones often to keep in touch with friends and family with texting, social media, and more. But they should never do so while driving -- and neither should you. When your teen is in the car with you (and when they are not), remember to safely store your phone in a glove box, bag, pocket, or otherwise out of sight. Show your teen that you give driving your full focus and attention.
- Follow speed limits: Speeding is a leading contributor to fatal teenage accidents, so you need to show that you're serious about taking it slow. Follow the speed limit, or at least go with the flow.
- Curb aggressive driving habits: You may blow off steam in traffic by muttering about the driver who cut you off -- you may even get on your horn at them. For your teen's sake, don't. They'll learn from you, and may mimic your aggressive driving habits, leading to road rage and other dangerous situations.
- Use your blinker: It's polite and it's the law. Show your teen that it's important to signal before changing lanes or turning, and stay safe while doing so.
- Check intersections before passing through: Many accidents happen at intersections as traffic flow fails to stop when the light turns red. Before going through an intersection, check both left and right, and consider mentioning why you're doing this to your teen driver. And don't forget: you shouldn't be running red lights, either.
- Never tailgate other drivers: This is one of the most dangerous driving habits, as leaving little room between vehicles can lead to serious accidents -- as well as road rage. Slow down and leave at least two car lengths in between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Consider a Driving Agreement
Before you hand over the keys to your car, consider setting some ground rules with your teen driver. This sets clear expectations, as well as consequences, and lets your teen know what is appropriate and what is not. Your driving agreement can include:
- Days and times when driving is permitted
- Rules for cell phone use, distracted driving, driving while impaired
- Seat belt use requirement
- Obeying traffic laws
- Smoking or eating while driving
- Number of passengers allowed
- Car racing
- Gas fill up expectations
- Financial responsibility
- Consequences for tickets or accidents
- Requirement for completing a defensive driving program
How to Find a Defensive Driving Education Program for Your Teen
Want to refer your teenage driver to a defensive driving course? Our directory offers qualified defensive driving schools that can help your teen become a safer driver today.