You may find the idea of your teenager sitting behind the wheel of your car slightly terror-inducing, but you’ll actually increase the chances of an accident if you don’t allow them to practice. Driver’s education programs are an excellent place to start, but they may only amount to 7-10 hours of actual drive time. The experience needed to become reasonably proficient is closer to 50 hours and that can vary from state to state. Still that’s around two hours per week spread out over six months!1 You’ll be responsible for ensuring your young driver not only learns the basics of driving, but also gains enough experience to drive with confidence.


COMFORT WITH THE CAR

Even if your teen is enrolled in a driver’s education course, it’s worth going over the basics with them several times before they hit the road solo. Start with the car itself, making sure they know things like:

How to adjust the steering wheel and driver’s seat

How to adjust the rearview and side mirrors

What each indicator light on the dashboard means

How to use windshield wipers

Where the emergency hazard lights are located

Where the parking brake/release is, and when to use it

The various headlight settings


This is not a comprehensive list of what a driver (new or experienced) should know about their vehicle, so be sure to encourage your teen to read through the vehicle’s manual and spend time getting familiar with the car before they get behind the wheel.

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COMFORT ON THE ROAD

Your teen should also spend a good amount of time driving with you in the passenger seat, ready to guide them. There are a host of basic skills your student driver should master, first in a parking lot (as much as possible) and then on easy roads:

Braking and accelerating smoothly

Scanning for and identifying hazards

Changing lanes

Turns, including speed and use of signals

Determining right of way, and merging into traffic

Keeping a safe following distance

Sharing the road with cyclists, pedestrians, and school buses

Reacting to an approaching emergency vehicle


Once they’ve mastered these basics it will be time to introduce them to less-than-ideal driving circumstances. You don’t want your new driver to be alone in the car the first time they drive in the dark or in bad weather. To best prepare them, map out routes that include roads that are off the beaten path. Take them on the highway during intense traffic. Drive at dawn, dusk, and at night, and even when it’s snowing, raining and/or windy. This variety of experiences will help prepare your teen for any situation they might find themselves in while on the road.


COMFORT IN AN EMERGENCY

Teenagers generally drive less than all but the oldest people, but their numbers of crashes and crash deaths are disproportionately high. The risk is highest at age 16, but drivers from age 16-19 have a crash rate 3x higher than that of drivers who are 20+ years old2. Set an example for your teen, especially as they near driving age, by avoiding cell phone use and other distraction while you’re driving. Discuss the most common mistakes made by young drivers with your teen, and warn then about the consequences of things like:

Taking risks while driving

Speeding

Overcrowding the car

Driving without seatbelts

Driving drowsy or under the influence

Following cars too closely


Even the safest driver may find themselves in an unfortunate situation, however, so you also need to prepare your teen for how to handle emergencies and traffic stops. Make sure their vehicle has an emergency kit that includes first aid supplies, flares, and other basics, and that they know where their insurance and vehicle registration are kept. Remind them to always call police if they are involved in an accident, and to remain calm. You should also walk them through what will happen if they are pulled over for a traffic violation:

Slow down and pull to the right (or into a parking lot if it is close by)

Turn on hazard lights/blinkers, which will act as an acknowledgement to the officer


If they are in doubt about the validity of the officer and they have a cell phone, they can call 911 and tell the operator they want to verify than an officer is trying to stop them.

If they have doubts about their safety and they don’t have a cell phone, advise them to stop in a well-lit and/or well populated area. They should then lock their doors, roll down their window an inch, and request that the officer show their department-issued ID card.

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COMFORT FOR YOU

Adding a teen driver to your auto insurance policy will likely raise your premium, but it’s worth it to know that your child, their vehicle, and your interests are protected in the event of an accident. There are certain things you can do, however, to reduce the cost of insuring your teen:

Shop around for rates. Even if you’ve been with your current company for years, that doesn’t mean they are the right fit for a new driver.

When shopping, look for “Good Student” Discounts. Teens may qualify even if they aren’t at the top of their class—many carriers only require a B average or higher for all subjects combined.

Begin the process of insuring your teen before they get a learner’s permit. In some cases, your policy will automatically cover them at no cost while they drive with a permit. Always check with your insurance company to be sure.

Once your teen is licensed, you’ll need to contact your insurance company and let them know your child needs to be added to your policy.


Want to talk with an insurance professional about the details of insuring your teen driver? The experts at Toyota Insurance are here to help!


1 Behind the Wheel: How to Help Your Teen Become a Safe Driver

2Teen Drivers and Passengers: Get the Facts | Transportation Safety | Injury Center | CDC

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