We’re all concerned about increased risks with new drivers on the road.
And if you’re parents of new drivers, it can be a sensitive topic to discuss, and therefore all too easy to overlook.
In spite of how awkward this can be to discuss with our kids, we have to face the facts:
- Car crashes are the #1 cause of death to teens in America (documented by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
- About half of teens will likely experience a crash before graduating High School (according to the National Safety Council)
- Teens are about four times more likely to be killed in a car crash when three or more friends are in the car with them (cited in the “Teen Driver Risk in Relation to Age and Number of Passengers” study)
The Illinois Secretary of State implemented the Graduated Driver Program to help mitigate teen driving accidents. It requires our teens to have a driver’s permit for nine months before they can obtain a driver’s license, to give them more practice time behind the wheel. After becoming licensed, the license is provisional, with certain restrictions based on age or driving experience. These provisions include restricted night driving hours, limits on passengers, and strict prohibition of texting and cell phones (including even hands-free devices until age nineteen). These are just a few of the rules put into place by Illinois. Each state may have their own version of the Graduated Driver Program.
How can we as parents implement our own precautions and safeguards?
First and foremost: we can lead by example. While parents are the number one influence on teen drivers, statistics unfortunately show that more parents use their phones while driving than teens do. Be sure to be aware of the role that you play in shaping your teen’s driving behaviors.
Second: keep an open dialog with your teen and set clear rules and expectations. Make sure that they understand why the rules are in place, and the risks and consequences of not following them. We know that it is to keep them and others safe, but sometimes teens need to know how something will directly affect them in order to better embrace the rules in place. Under the Graduated Driver Program, if a rule is broken, depending on the severity there is potential for their license to be revoked – a consequence neither parents nor teens wish to happen.
And third: talk to your insurance agent. There are various programs you may be able to take advantage of designed not only to educate your teen, but to save money as well. For example, my agency offers a virtual course that simulates driving behind the wheel: it puts your teen in the driver’s seat and requires them to move through different driving scenarios watching for possible hazards. It’s designed much like a video game to keep your teen actively engaged. Upon successful completion, they receive a certificate of completion that can be used for a 15% discount on their insurance policy. Your agent may have various programs available for new drivers as well.