For teenagers, it’s an annual rite of passage that comes with growing up: the chance to learn to drive.

But for all the excitement that accompanies teenagers learning to drive, there are many risks.

  • In their first year on the road, teens are almost 10 times more likely to be in a crash.
  • 20% of 11th graders report being in a crash as a driver in the past year.
  • The fatality rate for drivers aged 16-19 is four times that of drivers aged 25-69.
  • 25% of ninth graders report being in a crash as a passenger in their lifetimes.
  • Only 65% of teens consistently wear their seat belts as both a driver and a passenger.

There are 214 million licensed drivers and every year teenagers learn to drive. If you’re a teenager who wants to learn to drive or if you’re a parent considering putting your teen in a beginner driving course, here are some helpful tips:

  • Start early: Whether your teen is old enough to learn to drive or not, it’s never too early to talk about driving. While it can be a fun and relaxing activity, there are many risks and responsibilities that accompany driving. Since car accidents are one of the leading causes of death among teens, it’s important to have a dialogue between parents and teens. Fifty-six percent of teens rely on their parents to learn to drive and talking about it will make both parents and their teens more comfortable when it comes time to learn to drive.
  • Avoid peer pressure: While they may think they know everything at age 16 or age 17, teenagers don’t know everything, especially when it comes to driving. When they learn to drive they may feel pressured by their friends to take risks or they may feel unsafe behind the wheel. If they’re having concerns about driving or parents are concerned about their teen’s driving habits, it’s important to eliminate peer pressure in any form. Putting a nervous teen in charge of a car isn’t a good combination.
  • Take driver’s ed: To help both parents and teenagers feel safe, taking a good beginners driving course is essentially. Drivers training are required in many states and taking those classes allow teens to learn the rules of the road properly and to hear important lessons from adults other than Mom and Dad.
  • Set a good example: Most teens can’t wait to get behind the wheel and take off with a newfound sense of freedom. But as previously mentioned, teens are reliant on their parents when it comes to learning to drive. With that in mind, it’s important for parents to practice safe driving habits in order to have a positive influence on their teens. Displaying poor driving habits may give teens the idea that certain moves on the road are ok, such as not wearing a seat belt. By parents setting a good example, teens grow up to be courteous and safe drivers.
  • Practice: Some parents get extremely nervous with their teens behind the wheel. But the best way for young drivers to learn good habits is to actually practice driving. Logging a certain amount of driving hours is required in many drivers training classes anyway, so eventually teens will have to learn to drive for real. If they practice driving, teens are likely to feel more comfortable behind the wheel. Try and establish a time to practice driving consistently, like after dinner when traffic has died down a bit in your area.
  • All about the vehicle: Since it’s been established that car accidents and fatalities are high among teens, it’s important to choose a safe vehicle for a teen to drive in. Size matters with young drivers on the road (bigger vehicles do better in cases of car accidents) and does the type of vehicle (sedans are a safe car to choose) and make sure the vehicle is equipped with air bags, anti-lock brakes and other technology that will make teen drivers feel safer and put parents at ease.

Learning to drive can be a fun experience for teenagers, but by learning the rules, taking a drivers education class and putting in some time to practice driving, they can feel much more comfortable on the road and their parents will feel better about letting them take the wheel.

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