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10 tips for teen drivers

(oh yes we’re talking to you, parents)

The first time your teen gets behind the wheel marks a pivotal moment in life, signaling the first step toward true independence and adulthood. As a parent, you naturally have concerns about safety, the cost of insuring a young driver, the kind of car your teenager should drive, and more.

We understand. After all, the facts are alarming. Vehicular fatalities are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. And though fatality rates for teens have steadily dropped since 1975, teens remain 3 times more likely to crash per mile driven than adults.

Thankfully, you can play a big part in keeping your teen safe. To help you navigate through this important milestone in your child's life, here are 10 tips covering everything from safety to saving money on car insurance for teenage drivers.

1. Invest in a safe-driving course

The more practice young drivers have behind the wheel, the better. Since inexperience results in many teen motor vehicle accidents, approved safe-driving courses can help teens gain experience and helpful skills. Check with your state's department of motor vehicles to get an approved list.

Safe-driving courses can be taken online or in person and usually last anywhere from 6 to 12 hours. Most courses are affordable, but it never hurts to shop around. And while you're looking for ways to save, don't forget to ask your insurer about a car insurance discount for taking an approved safe-driving course.

2. Get the safest car for your teen driver

When it comes to choosing the right car for your teen, safety and reliability are key. Choose the safest car you can afford. Whether you buy a brand-new car or a used model, look for advanced safety features like front and side air bags, antilock brakes, head restraints, and electronic stability control. If a crash occurs, these safety features can be lifesavers. They can also earn you a safety device discount from Esurance.

Before you settle on a vehicle, make sure you check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) Top Safety Picks for the crash test rating of the car you have in mind.

Besides providing your teen driver with more protection, buying a safe car for your teen driver can also help lower your insurance premium.

3. Implement your own graduated licensing program

Even if your state has an excellent graduated drivers licensing program, consider implementing your own set of rules until you're comfortable with your offspring's driving skills.

  • Restrict nighttime driving: the IIHS reports that most fatal crashes for young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight, so it's a good idea to take away the keys after 9 p.m.
  • Limit the number of passengers: it may be fun for your teen driver to play chauffeur to his or her friends, but studies have shown that the presence of passengers actually increases accident risk. Teen drivers are more likely to be distracted when they have friends in the car, and the presence of peers also leads to riskier driving practices.
  • Supervise driving: even though your child may be a bona fide licensed driver, he or she still lacks the necessary experience to handle difficult driving situations.

4. Have a heart to heart

Driving is a privilege — make sure that your young driver knows it. Before you hand over the keys, clearly spell out your expectations for good driving behavior.

A parent-teen contract detailing your policies regarding passengers, alcohol use, texting while driving, speeding, etc. — and the consequences should your child fail to live up to his or her responsibility — will make sure that you and your teen are on the same page.

5. Practice what you preach

Set a good example for your young driver. Drive safely, buckle up, and avoid distractions (like texting, talking on the phone, or eating) behind the wheel.

6. Discuss driving costs

If your child has to pay for some car-related expenses (gas, a portion of the monthly insurance premiums, oil changes, etc.), chances are he or she will take driving more seriously and be safer on the road. So make sure your child knows who will pay for what and, when possible, have your teen help out with the cost of car ownership — even if it's just buying gas every once in a while.

7. Set a zero-tolerance drinking policy

The statistics for underage drinking are sobering.

So though you might like to avoid the subject, turning a blind eye to teen alcohol use won't make the problem disappear.

Instead, be honest and up-front about your expectations regarding drinking and driving. Establish a "none for the road" policy and then stick to it. By being firm and setting a good example, you'll help steer your child down the safe-driving road.

8. Keep a squeaky-clean driving record

Since every vehicular infraction tarnishes your record and raises your insurance premiums, practice safe driving to keep your record clean. If you've added your child to your policy, make sure he or she also follows safe-driving practices. Since speeding is the most common driving violation in the teenage population, make sure your child follows speed limits at all times. (Investing in a vehicle tracking device could be a good option if you'd like to monitor your child's speed.)

By taking it slow and following the rules of the road, you and your child could remain accident-free and qualify for a Claim-Free discount.

9. Encourage good grades

Aside from helping your young family member advance through life, good grades can also help you and your young driver save on car insurance. If your child is a full-time high school or college student and maintains a 3.0 (B) GPA or better, he or she could be eligible for a Good Student discount from Esurance. And if your son or daughter attends a Pac-12 school (and has his or her own car insurance policy), he or she could save with our Pac-12 discount.*

10. Shop around

Whether you're looking to add a young driver to your policy or buy a separate policy for your teen, shop around. Compare car insurance quotes from multiple companies to see which one offers the right policy at the right price.

Related link

Protect your teen from distracted driving
Restrict your teen's cell phone use with our teen driver safety device.

FAQs on teen driver insurance
Questions about insuring new drivers? We've got answers.

*The Pac-12 discount (also known as the Education discount in some states) is applied to individuals who have attained certain educational levels irrespective of school conference membership. Discount not available in some states, including Washington and California. Reduced rates for Pac-12 students and alumni are available in California.