25 Safe Driving Tips for Teen Drivers

Last Updated on May 5, 2022

Teenagers are the riskiest drivers on the road. Teenagers make more insurance claims than any other age group. They’re inexperienced, and they’re more likely to engage in risky behavior like speeding.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death among 15 to 20-year-olds. More than half of teens who die in car accidents are passengers.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. By implementing certain safe driving strategies, you can pay lower insurance premiums, reduce the risk of injury, and stay safe on the road.

Our experts have identified 25 strategies to help teen drivers stay safe on the road. Here are 25 safe driving tips for teenage drivers (or drivers of any age).

25 Safe Driving Tips for Teen Drivers

Take a Driver Safety Course

One of the best investments a parent can make is in a driver safety course. Defensive driver training is a proven way to improve a teenager’s driving habits. A good course gives drivers real-world experience and practical knowledge. It shows them the dangers of the road, then explains how to stay protected against those dangers. By taking an accredited driver safety course, your teenage driver can also enjoy lower insurance premiums.

Buy a Safe Car

Some cars are safer than others. Vehicles with strong crash safety ratings, for example, perform better in accidents. They protect passengers and drivers more effectively, reducing the risk of injury or death. Vehicles with strong rollover ratings, meanwhile, are less likely to flip when making sudden turns or movements. Vehicles with stronger safety ratings have lower insurance premiums, and they could be the difference between life and death for a novice teenage driver.

Put the Phone Away

Teenagers aren’t the only demographic that uses phones when driving. However, teenagers are at a particularly high risk of using phones while driving. Every year, thousands of Americans are killed because of distracted texting drivers. Put your phone in your glove box. Turn your phone off. Place your phone in your trunk. Whatever it takes, you need to limit phone usage while driving. It could save your life – or someone else’s life.

Limit Distractions

Some states have laws restricting new drivers from having non-relatives in the vehicle. You may be permitted to have one non-relative in the vehicle at any time, for example. This limits distractions for new drivers. Even if your state does not have restrictions, it may be a good idea to limit the number of people in a vehicle. A full vehicle can be a loud vehicle, and looking away from the road momentarily may seem small – but it can be a fatal mistake.

Follow a Graduated Drivers License Program (Or Create Your Own)

Most states have some type of graduated drivers license (GDL) program. These programs force drivers to go through certain steps with certain restrictions before receiving a full license. If your state has a GDL program, then it’s important for teenage drivers to follow that program. Driver safety experts have created these programs for a reason. However, some parents create their own GDL programs at home. You might limit your teen driver to daytime riding during the first six months of getting a license, for example, or limit driving in inclement weather, among other restrictions. Or, restrict the number of passengers in your teenage driver’s vehicle. As your teenager proves safe driving habits, you can relax restrictions.

Understand the Dangers of Drug and Alcohol Use

Teenagers receive plenty of warnings about drug and alcohol usage. We’re not going to tell you to avoid drugs and alcohol, but you should understand the dangers of drug and alcohol usage when driving. Most states penalize teenage drivers for having any alcohol in their system. If you blow into a breathalyzer and blow above 0.0%, then your license could be suspended. It’s not just about your own drug or alcohol usage: it’s about how others use it. Never get into a vehicle with a driver who has used drugs or alcohol.

Discuss the Cost of Driving with your Teenage Driver

Teenagers may not understand how insurance works. They might have a basic idea of how it works, but they don’t understand the full cost of car insurance or how much premiums rise after a single at-fault accident. Some parents ask their teenage drivers to pay for car insurance or share the costs. It gives your teenager a better idea of how much driving costs, and it shows them actions have financial consequences.

Encourage Good Grades

Teenagers with good grades tend to be safer drivers. In fact, many insurance companies offer good grade discounts to teenage drivers. If you have a B+ average or higher in high school or college, then you may qualify for a good grade discount on car insurance. Qualifying rules vary between insurance companies. However, by encouraging your teenage driver to get good grades, you can reduce car insurance premiums.

Maintain Safe Driving Distance

One of the first rules of defensive driving is to maintain safe driving distance between you and other vehicles. Teenage drivers may not understand how much distance to leave. They may have no experience coming to a sudden stop while driving, for example. Teach your teenage driver to maintain a safe driving distance, and adjust that safe driving distance for different speeds and conditions.

Practice Driving in Different Conditions

Teenage drivers are at high risk because they have limited experience. They have never had to swerve to avoid an accident, for example, or drive in snowy or icy conditions. Teach your teenage driver to drive in different conditions, including slippery conditions, rain, or snow. Teach them to drive in rush hour traffic. Teach them to drive at night. By preparing your teenager for different conditions, you can prepare them for the real world.

Avoid Driving When Tired

Maybe you had a long day at college. Maybe you work the night shift on weekends for a part-time job. Whatever your situation may be, you might be tempted to drive while tired. Unfortunately, driving while tired is as dangerous as driving drunk. Teenagers may feel they have limitless energy, but it takes just a few seconds of sleep to ruin your life – or someone else’s life. Avoid driving while tired, and don’t be afraid to pull over and take a break.

Assume Other Drivers Are Bad Drivers

Another important rule of defensive driving is to assume every other driver is a bad driver. It’s not true: most drivers are good drivers. However, when you assume every other driver is a bad driver, you naturally drive more defensively, which can significantly reduce your chances of getting into an accident. As a teenager, you might assume older drivers are better and more experienced. However, that’s not always the case.

Check your Surroundings Every 15 to 20 Seconds

Good drivers stay aware of their surroundings. Get into the habit of checking your surroundings every 15 to 20 seconds. Do a shoulder check. Scan your mirrors. It may seem like a minor thing to do, but it can be enormously helpful in an accident. If you need to make a split-second decision on where to swerve, then your brand will intuitively know which lane to turn into.

Check your Rear View Mirror When Braking

Get into the habit of checking your rearview mirror when braking. It’s a good defensive driving strategy. The driver behind you may not notice you are braking. The driver may be distracted or following too closely, for example.

Follow the 3 to 4 Second Rule

In good weather, you should leave 3 to 4 seconds between you and the driver in front of you. 3 to 4 seconds of space gives you ample reaction time for sudden braking, road hazards, and other dangers. In bad weather conditions, give yourself more time to prepare.

Follow Speed Limits

Speed limits exist for a reason. As a teenager, you may feel invincible. However, thousands of drivers across America are killed by speeders every year. Follow posted speed limits, and don’t be afraid to reduce your speed in certain weather conditions – even if people start passing you.

Don’t Get Stressed Keeping up with Traffic

Many driver safety tips recommend keeping up with traffic. That’s generally a good idea, although it may not be the right choice in all situations. Other drivers may be going faster than you, and you may not feel comfortable going those speeds. If someone is tailgating you, or if other drivers keep passing you, then consider pulling over for a few minutes. Don’t get stressed into driving faster than you are comfortable driving.

Wear your Seatbelt

Every year, thousands of teenagers are killed because they weren’t wearing seatbelts. Many of them are passengers. Teenage drivers are more likely to get into an accident than drivers in any other demographic. Wear your seatbelt when driving, and wear your seatbelt when riding in someone else’s vehicle as a passenger. In fact, just wear your seatbelt any time you’re in a vehicle.

Turn Down the Music

Pumping music while driving can feel great, but it can also be distracting. Loud music makes it difficult to hear sirens, car horns, and other noises. Turn down the music and focus on driving.

Set a Zero-Tolerance Drinking Policy

Most states have a zero-tolerance drinking policy for teenage drivers. However, even if your state does not have a GDL program or a zero-tolerance drinking policy for new drivers, consider setting a policy yourself. Teenage drivers are particularly susceptible to alcohol. Whether driving drunk or getting into a vehicle with a drunk driver, it only takes one mistake. Consider setting a zero-tolerance drinking policy with your teenage driver.

Limit Night Driving

GDL programs limit night driving for teenage drivers. Approximately 40% of teenage driving fatalities occur in accidents between 9 pm and 6 am. You have 90% less visibility at night. As an inexperienced teenage driver, you need as much visibility as possible. Consider limiting night driving until you feel more comfortable behind the wheel.

Avoid Eating While Driving

Most teenagers know not to drink and drive. However, many teenagers don’t see the big deal with eating and driving. Eating may not intoxicate you, but it can distract you from the road. Removing one hand from the steering wheel may not seem like a big deal – until you suddenly need to swerve or brake because of an accident in front of you. Avoid eating while driving.

Avoid Driving When Stressed, Angry, or Emotional

Your teenage years are tough. Hormones can create a storm of emotions inside your head. Avoid driving when stressed, angry, or emotional. You might not think or see straight. You’re more likely to get into an accident when emotionally impaired. It may not seem as serious as being physically impaired, but emotional driving can be dangerous too.

Prepare your Vehicle for Emergencies

If driving long distances, pack an emergency kit in your vehicle. Add a blanket, food, water, and other supplies. This is especially important if you live in a remote area, drive in a winter climate, or live in a place with hazardous weather. You never know what will happen on the road, and an emergency kit can make a life or death difference.

Be a Good Role Model for Your Teenage Driver

Some parents tell their children to follow all of the lessons above – yet never follow these lessons themselves. Be a good role model for your teenage driver. Talk is cheap. If your teenage driver hears you sharing the lessons above, then sees you following those lessons, they’re more likely to follow them – and be a safer teenage driver.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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