What steps can I take to make sure my teen driver is safe?
For a young person, having a driver's license can create an exciting sense of freedom. Unfortunately, new risks come with this new freedom. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States.1
There are proven strategies to help prevent these tragedies, and your role as a parent is essential to your teen's safety behind the wheel. Now is a good time to make sure that both you and your teen understand the applicable licensing rules and safety concerns that pertain to teen drivers.
Every state has a graduated driver licensing (GDL) program. GDL programs are designed to allow young, novice drivers to practice their driving skills in low-risk situations. Restrictions are gradually lifted and greater responsibility is granted until teens ultimately earn full driving privileges.
Most GDL programs require that drivers complete two stages before being granted a full, unrestricted license. Stage one is the beginner or learner's permit stage, which requires the completion of a specific number of hours of supervised driving time during a set time period (typically 6 to 12 months).
Stage two is the intermediate or provisional period in which the young driver has a license to drive alone but with certain restrictions (e.g., peer passengers limited or banned altogether, late-night driving curfew, no electronic devices).
While GDL programs attempt to address a variety of known risks for teen drivers, it's a good idea to emphasize specific risks with your teen as well, such as:
- Lack of experience (e.g., underestimating dangerous situations and not recognizing hazardous conditions)
- Distracted driving (e.g., cell phone use, listening to loud music, or talking to a passenger)
- Speeding and tailgating
- Improper seat belt use
- Drinking and driving
1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017