It's been sixteen years and now your son or daughter is finally ready to climb into the driver's seat of the family car. Don't let them drive away without reading these car safety tips for teenagers.
It's a moment fraught with excitement for teenagers and trepidation for parents: the day your child passes his or her driving test. Sure, it means more freedom for both parent and child, but driving is as dangerous as it is liberating. Passing a driving test is one thing, but how can you be sure that your teenager is playing it as safe as possible behind the wheel? Here are twenty-five car safety tips for teenagers to help prepare your child—and ease your parental mind—before you toss him or her the keys.
No cell phones
Cell phones are probably one of the biggest distractions behind the wheel today, accounting for more accidents than they need to. For that reason, total abstinence is probably the most important car safety tip for teenagers today. Cell phones should be turned off or silenced completely while driving. Should you need to use your phone while on the road, pull over and turn the car off completely before tending to phone calls and text messages.
Six months solo
Having friends and significant others in the car is an inevitable part of driving, but new drivers need to first be comfortable with operating a vehicle alone. Spend six months driving on your own before inviting passengers to join you. They will bring with them a different energy which can be very distracting, especially if you don't have much driving experience under your belt.
Most people listen to music, talk shows, news programs, or audiobooks while driving, but this can be hazardous for a new driver. Changing tracks, adjusting volume and balance, and even singing along create distractions that can lead to accidents. Turn down the noise or turn it off altogether until you have a better handle on vehicle operation and traffic laws.
Avoid risky behaviors
Changing lanes without checking blind spots, rolling through stop signs, or gunning it to beat a light all increase the likelihood of an accident. Make sure you understand the risks associated with your decisions and learn to embrace patience and safety over speed and showboating.
Always wear a seatbelt
Speaking of risky behavior, this one is a no-brainer. Always, always, always wear a seatbelt.
No alcohol or substances
This should go for all facets of teenage life and especially for time spent behind the wheel. This one isn't only for your safety, but for the safety of other drivers and passengers, as well.
Follow at a reasonable distance
Be mindful of how closely you follow other drivers. Even if someone is going below the speed limit, that's no excuse to follow too closely. Sudden stops or slowdowns at close range can result in dangerous situations.
Share the road
Bikers, joggers, walkers, and other pedestrians have as much right to use the road as you do. Be respectful and cautious. Your vehicle poses a much greater threat than they do.
This is among the more common car safety tips for teenagers, but it's not always clear what we mean by defensive driving. Defensive driving is the practice of anticipating dangerous situations on the road and avoiding them. Don't be an aggressor or an instigator. React to situations with safety in mind and let everything else go.
Take a driver education class
Most driver education courses teach defensive driving these days as well as many other car safety tips for teenagers. If you haven't taken a class already, consider doing so. You'll not only learn defensive driving and many other useful skills for the road, but you may also be eligible for insurance savings by taking a course like this.
Adhere to posted speed limits
You may not agree with them, but they're there for a reason. Stick to them.
Avoid bad weather
It's easy to take driving for granted in bad weather, but storms, wind, and fog can all seriously affect the way you drive. When possible, avoid severe weather and travel to your destination when the storms have passed. Better to get there late than to not get there at all.
An oft-overlooked car safety tip for teenagers is to never operate a motor vehicle while overtired. You may think you can handle it, but it only takes a split second to doze off and find yourself in a serious accident. Always be well-rested before driving.
Consider your emotional state
We all have bad days. Teenagers especially are still learning to understand and control their emotions, which is hard enough when not operating a car. If you're in a state of distress for any reason, call for a ride rather than chance it yourself. Anger, sadness, and frustration cloud your judgement and can lead to poor decisions behind the wheel.
Make sure your car is safe
For many teenagers, a first car is a used car, sometimes very used. Make sure to have it inspected regularly by a qualified mechanic to ensure it's still safe to use on the road.
Maintain your car regularly
In the same vein, make sure you check your oil, tire pressure, antifreeze levels, and other basic operational metrics on a regular basis. This will not only help keep your car in working order for a long time, but it will help to prevent emergency situations.
Have an emergency kit ready
Tire irons, car jacks, and first aid kits should all be present in your vehicle in case of an emergency.
Be prepared for dangerous situations
One of the more crucial car safety tips for teenagers is to know how to handle things like skids and slippery weather among other hazardous conditions and situations. Obviously it's best to avoid them altogether, but accidents do happen. Being prepared for them will help to minimize the damage. These are skills you can also learn in a driver education class.
Familiarize yourself with vehicle controls
Make sure you know all the controls of your vehicle before you set out driving. This includes everything from climate controls to windshield wipers to headlights and hazard lights.
Adjust your mirrors
This one is easy to overlook, but it should be the first thing you do when you sit down in your car, even before you put the key in the ignition. Make sure you can easily and clearly see around you on all sides. Clean your mirrors if they are foggy and only use your nighttime rear view if absolutely necessary.
Always use your blinkers
Blinkers are the only way you can communicate with other drivers. Even if you think your next move is an obvious one, use the blinker anyway. It's right nearby and doesn't do any harm when used but can result in a great deal of harm if neglected.
Turn on your headlights
Even in daytime conditions, headlights help other drivers to see you from a distance. Don't be shy about using your headlights even when it's light out.
Curfews and driving limits (tip for parents)
Another car safety tip for teenagers that's sure to be groan-worthy is to impose a driving curfew and to limit the number of teenage driving hours. This is another temporary imposition, but keeping your teen off the road at night and limiting how much time is spent each day behind the wheel will provide a paced environment for him or her to become comfortable with driving alone without overdoing it. We suggest that these limits last just slightly longer than the six-month-solo guideline.
Keep calm and give your teen some room (tip for parents)
This may be the hardest tip to embrace for parents, but it's a necessary one. Most of us got through our teenage driving years with little or no damage. Your teen likely will, too. Teach them correctly and then put your faith in them as much as you can. Leave them room to learn from their own mistakes and encourage them all the way through.
Model behavior (tip for parents)
Parents, you are your teens' primary point of reference for safe driving. If you ignore speed limits and fail to practice safe driving, your teens most likely will, too. Set a good example from the beginning. Most of these car safety tips for teenagers are just as helpful for adults.
Now that your teenager started driving, it's time to add them to your policy. We'll make sure your child is covered in case of an accident.
Are there any important tips we missed? Share your thoughts in the comments!