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Teen Drivers: 8 Safety Tips

Mar 26, 2024
young woman is smiling behind a car steering wheel

Nothing is scarier than a teen driver. Or is it a driver using their cellphone on the highway? Or someone balancing food on their lap and barely a hand on the wheel while they simultaneously try to eat, not spill, and operate a vehicle? A driver who’s tired or in a hurry? Some combination of these?

We previously posted about being a good role model for teen drivers, but if your teen is already driving, how can you help them be safer?

  • Seatbelts are a must. Every driver and every passenger in every car must wear a seatbelt on every car ride. No exceptions.
  • Limit the number of passengers. Every state has graduated driver’s licensing laws which, among other things, limit the number of passengers a new driver can have. Check your state’s law here and be clear with your teenager that this is a law, not just a parent’s rule. When two or more teens ride in a vehicle with a teen driver, the risk of a fatal crash can double to triple.
  • Put the phone down. Many states have laws around young drivers’ cellphone use, and you can create your own family rules about cellphone use behind the wheel. Encourage teen drivers to put their phone away while driving, designate a texter or navigator, and pull over before answering phone calls or engaging with other apps.
  • No drugs or alcohol. Even though teens are too young to legally buy or consume alcohol, we know they do it. Don’t let them drink and drive. Other drugs and even some medications can affect their reaction time and could be dangerous. Talk with them about the risks and let them know what the consequences are – both from parents and police – if they break the rules.
  • Follow state and local laws. Make sure your teen knows to follow the speed limit, stop at stop signs and red lights, and follow other traffic laws.
  • Stay awake and alert. Make sure your teen is well-rested before driving. They are most likely to be tired when driving in the early morning or late at night. If they seem tired, offer to give them a ride or suggest another form of transportation.
  • Allow enough time. Being in a hurry or running late means drivers are more likely to speed. Encourage your teen to leave early so they’re not tempted to speed and to notify people before they leave that they may be late, if needed.
  • The car is not a dining room. Eating takes a driver’s eyes, hands, and attention off the road. Encourage your teen to eat before or after their drive or pull over and put it in park before chowing down.

Consider writing up a formal document outlining these rules, and any others your family thinks are relevant, then review that document with your teen. Find an example of a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement from the CDC here.

Center for Injury Research & Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital
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Featured Expert

Motao Zhu
Motao Zhu, MD, MS, PhD
Center for Injury Research and Policy

Motao Zhu, MD, MS, PhD, is a professor of pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Laura Dattner
Laura Dattner, MA
Center for Injury Research and Policy

Laura Dattner is a research writer in the Center for Injury Research and Policy. With both a health communications and public health background, she works to translate pediatric injury research into meaningful, accurate messages which motivate the public to make positive behavior changes.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.