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Published on June 02, 2020

father teaching son to drive

Teens and Safe Driving

Watching your teen drive off for the first time can be a frightening moment for a parent.

Teenagers are often ready for the freedom and independence of driving on their own. Parents may be ready to lighten the load of carpooling and scheduling their lives around activity drop offs. Today’s teens have more digital distractions than ever before with cell phones.

It’s hard to get teenagers off their phones when you’re sitting at the dinner table, so what will it be like once they are on their own in the car? Letting your child start driving is a big step, which is why parents need to be educated and prepared on how to help their teen driver.

Driver's Education

A driver’s education course is a great way to begin driving lessons. Teens often respond better to authority that isn’t their parents. Also driver’s education instructors are up to date on all current laws and important safety lessons. While driver’s education is an additional cost it can sometimes lower insurance rates for your teen and it gives them a good foundation for safe driving.


Requirements and types of licenses vary from state to state. The driver’s license regulations are always changing make sure you and your teen are up to date on the laws regarding their license. For instance a learner’s permit means an adult over 18 years of age must be in the car at all times with the driver. If your family has some personal rules that aren’t part of the laws it is good to discuss these as well, such as no driving after 8 p.m., your cell phone needs to be on mute and in backseat, or you are not allowed to have anyone else in the car with you

Wheel Position

Most parents learned to place their hands at 10 and 2 o’clock when driving. Today’s instructors recommend holding the wheel at 9 and 3. This is because of airbags; when an airbag deploys and your hands are at 10 and 2 the impact can force your hands into your face or break your thumbs. Keeping both hands on the steering wheel discourages messing with the radio or other items.

Distracted Driving

Even though texting and driving is illegal, many people still think that it isn’t a big deal.  When they hear the notification go off on their phone it can be difficult to ignore. Having your teen put an app that blocks texts while driving can prevent these distractions. Some iPhones allow parents to turn on a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode. Another good way to help show your child the importance of not driving distracted is to monitor your own use of technology in the car. Even “hands-free” phone use can be distracting. 

Impaired Driving

Most teens know that drinking and driving isn’t safe, but reminding them of the importance of this is a good idea when they are learning to drive. Make a plan for what they should do if they ever are unable to drive home from somewhere for any reason. Also talk to your teen about driving while tired. Being overly tired while driving has similar effects to a person’s reflexes as drinking. Impaired driving includes driving under the influence of medications or drugs. 

Buckle Up

Make sure your child always buckles up. Set a good example by always buckling up yourself no matter how short the trip. While today’s cars are safer than previous models it is always important to buckle up.  Everyone in the car needs to be restrained, no matter if they are in the front or back seat. Some states require seat belt usage or it may result in a ticket.

Car Safety

Teach your child how to check tires and around the car before they get in. Explain what all the buttons in your car do; show them how to use hazard lights and emergency brakes. Make sure that you have an emergency kit in all vehicles along with a blanket and warm clothes just in case of winter driving.

Driving is an important step toward independence for teens. Parents can make this a smoother transition by making sure they have talked with their child regarding important safety concerns and set expectations for driving.  Showing your child the ropes of driving and instilling safety principles can help ease parents’ worries and give your teen the confidence to drive safely.

By Patricia Bates, Family Life Educator, Women’s and Children’s Community Outreach Education, Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center

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