Teen Driving Toolkit

  • Car Talk Staff
  • 7/17/2020

What's in the Teen Driving Toolkit?

New Driver (Teen Driving) Contract

We believe that new drivers and their parents should discuss safe driving topics, agree on definitions of responsible driving, and discuss the consequences of not driving responsibly. Access the editable contract: New Driver Contract

Drivers Education

There may be many in-person options for drivers education courses in your area - so many we couldn't possibly make recommendations. But you can check out our list of top online drivers ed courses to see if there's a good option for you.

Car Talk's Best Driving Advice

Over the years we've answered questions from new drivers of all ages, about everything from the basic maintenance you need to know to keep yourself safe on the road to defensive driving advice, and more.

Teen Driving Statistics

They're scary. Take a look and share with your teen / new driver if you want to drive home why all of this is important: Teen Driving Statistics

More Resources

There are many resources on the web to help you plan and prepare for a new driver. We've also identified and included several other websites that we find helpful.

New Driver Contract (for Parents and Teens)

WHY A CONTRACT?

Automobile accidents are the #1 cause of death for teenagers in America. We don't want you or anyone in your vehicle to be a statistic. So this contract is about responsible driving and the consequences of not driving responsibly. Both you as a new driver and I/we as parent(s) are on the hook to be safe drivers.

Click here to download the editable New Driver Contract

HOW DOES THE NEW DRIVER (TEEN DRIVING) CONTRACT WORK?

We've started with the areas we think are critical for new drivers to keep in mind. And, we've provided a background information to explain why we think each of these is so important.

But we know every family is different. So this is an editable document; you can cut sections that don't work for you, and add new ones that align with your priorities. We've also suggested consequences for each violation that you can take or leave.

We ask both parents and kids to initial each section, to indicate that each party understands the rationale and the consequences associated with each of these important driving topics, and both parties to sign at the bottom of the document, just for good measure.

We strongly believe that people get their bad driving habits from friends and family (“Don't drive like my brother,” anyone?) which is why we know we need to keep parents on the hook too!

Click here to download the editable New Driver Contract

Teen Driving Facts and Statistics

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds, causing roughly one-third of all deaths for this age group. Teenagers are overrepresented in traffic crashes both as drivers and as passengers. The high crash-involvement rate for this age group is caused primarily by their lack of maturity and driving experience coupled with their overconfidence and risk-taking behaviors. High-risk behaviors include failure to wear safety belts, speeding, driving while impaired (by alcohol or other drugs) and drowsy or distracted driving. This age group is particularly susceptible to distractions caused by other passengers in the vehicle, electronic devices and music.

Here are the stats any new driver and his/her parents should know about:

  • In 2017, 1,830 15 - 20-year-old drivers were killed in motor vehicle crashes. (1)
  • In 2017, 24 percent of 15- to 20-year-old drivers who were killed in crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08g/dL or higher. (1)
  • Drivers are less likely to use their seatbelts when they have been drinking. In 2017, 42 percent of the young drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes who had been drinking were unrestrained. (1)
  • In 2017, 31 percent of the male drivers ages 15 to 20 who were involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash. (1)
  • The presence of teen passengers increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers; the risk increases with the number of teen passengers. (2)
  • The risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among 16- to 19-year-olds than among any other age group. In fact, per mile driven, these teen drivers are three times more likely than older drivers to crash. (2)
  • Crash risk is particularly high during the first year that teenagers are eligible to drive. (2)
  • Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the back of the next). (2)
  • In recent studies, almost half of teen deaths from motor vehicle crashes occurred between 3 p.m. and midnight and 53 percent occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

Sources:

What Parents Can Do:

Parents should be aware that their active support and awareness, including helping with skill building and making driver education available, are critical to helping reduce injuries and fatalities among teens.

Getting Started

If you're like most parents of a teenager, chances are that the process for getting a license in your state has changed a bit - for the better - since you first got your license. Instead of suffering through long wait times at the DMV (and, maybe, building character?), teens in many states now have the option of getting started online.

Once you and your teenager have checked off enough boxes and are ready to take the first steps in getting prepared for the road, it's worthwhile to see if approved online options are available in your state; currently, about half of the United States population has access to some type of approved online option for teens. If you're lucky enough to live in one of these states (listed below), approved options for teen drivers ed are currently available:

Find online drivers ed and traffic schools

Save time and money with online classes

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Teen Driving Q&A

HOW TO CHOOSE A CAR FOR A TEENAGE DRIVER (our humble opinion)

Over the years we've offered our (frequently unsolicited) opinion about the best and worst cars for new drivers. Generally, we recommend finding a used car that is on the slower and safer end of the spectrum. A car that is in a word, boring.

Slower, because young drivers tend to speed. Safer, because, well, we hope this one is obvious. While lane departure warning systems, automated braking, blind-spot detection, etc. are all great, we can't in good conscience recommend buying a brand new car for someone who's likely to back it through your garage door before the ink is even dry on their new license! Anything built in the last 10 - 15 years should fit the bill. (On that note: We've known a few kids here and there who've been devoted to the idea of tooling around in a VW Bus, or fixing up Uncle Herb's Nash Rambler and driving it to school. We'd suggest you put the kibosh on any such plans. Cars that old are less safe (no airbags, no traction control, no ABS) are a lot more difficult to drive; they don't handle as well, they're slower to stop, and they're more likely to break down and leave your kid stranded. We think learning to drive is hard enough without any added degree of difficulty.)

Minivans, station wagons, and older sedans are perfect for this purpose. We know SUVs have made great strides since they were first introduced (back when they tended to roll over at the bat of an eye) but overall they still roll at higher rates than other vehicle types. You can check the safety ratings for any car you're interested in here.

Remember: Kids are born to test limits, so don't get them a car that doesn't have any.

Resources from Other Places

Yes, there are other websites beyond www.cartalk.com! A handful stand out to us for their well-researched, reliable advice for new drivers and their parents. Plus their useful [lies damn lies and] statistics. See below.

Editor's note and disclaimer: Car Talk is supported by our fans, readers and listeners. When you click on some of the links on our website, we may receive referral compensation. However, you should know that the recommendations we make are based on our independent editorial review and analyses.