Every year, National Teen Driver Safety Week provides parents with the perfect opportunity to make sure their teens are staying safe on the road. This year, it lasts from October 20 to 26.

Why Teen Driver Safety Matters

For teens between the ages of 15 and 18, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death. Teens lack driving experience and may be susceptible to dangerous habits including speeding and distracted driving. Given this, it’s not surprising that teens typically have higher crash rates than older drivers.

The good news is that fatalities involving teen drivers have decreased. In 2017, 2,247 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers. While this is still too high, it is a 3 percent decrease compared to 2016. We’re on the right track, but parents and teens need to keep working to bring the number down even further.

Graduated Driver Licensing Laws

In recent years, states have passed graduated license programs for teen drivers. These programs vary from state to state, but they generally consist of three phases:

  • The First Stage: Teens have a permit and are learning to drive while supervised. They must take a driving test at the end of this phase.
  • The Second Stage: Teens have a restricted license and can drive without supervision, but they must follow certain requirements. For example, they may not be able to drive at night or with teen passengers in the car, and they may not be allowed to use a handheld or hands-free device while driving. This stage usually lasts for a year.
  • The Third Stage: Teens have a regular license and have to follow the same rules as other drivers.

To learn about your state’s program, check with your insurance department or see the summary of state laws provided by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

How Parents Can Help

According to the NHTSA, graduated driver licensing programs can reduce fatal crash rates among 16-year-olds by about 20 percent. That’s fantastic news.

However, graduated driver licensing programs can’t be effective if they’re not enforced. Parents should take the time to learn about their state’s program and to ensure their teens are following the laws.

Also, the dangers don’t vanish the moment a teen advances to the final phase of the graduated driver licensing program. Teens are still relatively inexperienced and may make bad calls. Parents should talk to their teens and establish clear expectations about common dangers.

  • Does your teen always use a seatbelt and require passengers to buckle up?
  • Does your teen understand the dangers of distracted driving? Make sure your teen isn’t using a smartphone while driving.
  • Does your teen know to never drive while drunk or high or to be a passenger in a car with a driver who is drunk or high? Discuss what your teen should do if they find themselves in a dangerous situation.
  • Are you a good role model for your teen? If you drive while distracted or don’t wear a seatbelt, your teen might think this is acceptable no matter what you say.

Last but not least, make sure your teen’s car has comprehensive auto insurance. Get a quote here.