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Teaching Your Teen to Be a Good Driver

Teen drivers have the highest accident and fatality rates of any age group. If you're the parent of a young driver, you can help protect your child by learning about the problem and taking steps to decrease your child's risk of dying in a car crash.

Increased risk

Teens face an increased risk of car accidents for many reasons:

  • Lack of experience and judgment; According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 16-year-old drivers are five times more likely to have an accident than 18-year-old drivers.

  • Overestimating their driving abilities

  • Speeding and driving too fast for traffic and weather conditions

  • Drinking and driving

  • Not wearing a seat belt

  • Inattention, often caused by other young people in the car; With two or more passengers, the fatal crash risk for 16- to 19-year-old drivers is more than five times greater than it is when they're driving alone, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

  • Doing a lot of night driving

  • Talking on a cell phone while driving

  • Texting while driving

Buckle up

Make sure you and your child wear seat belts at all times. Nearly three-quarters of 15- to 20-year-olds who die in vehicle crashes aren't wearing seat belts.

Draw the line on drinking

Set a zero-tolerance rule about drinking and driving, with strict punishments attached.

Practice, practice

Give your child lots of time to practice. Once your child has a learning permit, drive with the child as often as you can and in all possible driving conditions. Some states require a licensed driver accompany the child for the first six months.

Before setting out, plan the route and discuss it with your teen. Begin with 15- to 20-minute sessions and gradually increase the time to an hour. Give positive feedback. Give specific instructions.

Have a time limit

Set a curfew time for night driving. More than 60 percent of teen motor-vehicle deaths occur between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Hit the books

Have the child take a defensive-driving course. Such classes go beyond basic "driver's ed" and provide invaluable skills.

Be a good driver yourself

Because teens usually learn to drive from their parents, be sure you're teaching them good technical driving skills, respect for other drivers and good judgment.

They should pay

Have your teen pay for some or all of the insurance, car payment, gas and maintenance. Teens who contribute are more likely to drive responsibly.

Minimize the child's distractions

Don't let a teen drive while using a cell phone, eating or playing loud music.

Choose your child's car with care

Avoid sports cars with performance images; and small or older cars that offer little crash protection. Instead, look for a mid-sized or full-sized vehicle with a sedate image and a smaller motor.