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Helping Your Teenage Driver Learn Responsibility and Safety

teen driving .

The statistics are sobering. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16- to 20-year-olds, according to the Insurance Information Institute, due in part to teenage drivers' inexperience behind the wheel. Graduated driver's license laws are helping teens gain more driving experience and develop a safer, more mature attitude toward driving. However, even with these laws, a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association found that drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 are still 1.6 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than adults between the ages of 35 and 40.

If you are one of the households in America with a teenage driver, it is natural to feel mixed emotions, even concern or worry your teen getting behind the wheel. While every teenage driver is different, here are a few starting points for talking with your teen about safe, responsible driving.

1. Understand your state’s graduated driver’s license program.
Every state has adopted its own version of a graduated driver’s license program. This program is designed to help teenagers gain more experience behind the wheel before they receive full driving privileges. The first stage (phase 1) is a learner's permit, which allows the permit holder to drive when accompanied by a licensed adult after passing a vision test and road knowledge test. The second stage (phase 2) is an intermediate license, which includes additional behind-the-wheel testing and advanced driver education. When driving at night, an adult must accompany the license holder. The license holder must successfully drive for 12 months with no crashes or traffic offense convictions before receiving a full license in phase 3.

2. Talk to your teen about the dangers of distracted driving, including cell phone use.
Cell phone usage while operating a motor vehicle is a major concern for drivers of all ages. Many municipalities have passed “hands-free” laws banning the use of cellphones while operating a motor vehicle. Still, eight people die every day as the result of distracted driving, including the use of cell phones while driving. The Federal Communications Commission estimates that at any given moment during the day, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cellphones or another electronic device that may distract their attention from the road. Talk to your teen about not talking or texting while driving. If your teen needs to make a call or send a message, advise them to pull over in a safe place.

3. Discuss the challenges of driving in severe weather.
Since teenagers have less experience driving, they may not know how to respond to severe weather conditions. Discuss how to stay safe on the road and how to adjust your driving in poor weather. For example, you can address the importance of reducing speed on slippery roads and allowing more time to brake safely. You may also wish to have a signed agreement with your teen that sets reasonable limits on his or her driving. Depending on where you live, you might include a limit on driving after a snowstorm or during a thunderstorm or other severe weather .

4. Understand the insurance implications.
Adding a teenage driver to your insurance plan may have an impact, so it's a good idea to talk to your agent right away. You might discover certain discounts are available and be able to address questions you might have regarding your policy.

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