Teen Safe Driving

How to Talk to Your Teen About Safe Driving

First and foremost, don't delay this important conversation with your teen. Research shows that many parents delay talking about driving safety until their children are "permit age" (generally 15) much later than they talk to them about other issues like smoking, drugs, sex. Given the potential deadliness of unsafe driving, parents should initiate the dialogue about safe driving sooner.  Parents should begin a conversation by the junior high years and maintain an ongoing dialogue. Tee it up as a discussion, not a lecture.

Here are some tips for starting this discussion:

  • Celebrate the accomplishment of getting a drivers license. Getting a license is a big step in the life of a teen; seize the opportunity to acknowledge this accomplishment and your teen's growing independence, while pointing out the responsibility that comes with the privilege of driving.
  • Don't stop talking about driving once they have their licenses. Don't succumb to the "well, you just have to let them go and hope you raised them right" philosophy of parenting once they are actually on the road. Find ways to keep the conversation active, especially during the first critical months after they begin to drive on their own.
  • Make your talks a dialogue about driving. Remember: teens are excited about driving - it's a fun topic for them. So don't turn your talks into lectures; instead, make them open dialogues that show you understand the positive side of getting behind the wheel, and let your teens share their views and experiences at the same time.
  • Speak to their desire to be smart. As we have learned in our research, being a "safe driver" is not something teens aspire to become. Smart driving, on the other hand, combines skill and safety, and is something teens can attain.
  • Be Parental. Express Your Authority. Your teens want to know your values and expect you to provide structure for them. They need you to be a parent, not another friend. Provide guidelines that you require they follow and consistently enforce your guidelines. If your teen violates your guidelines, deliver on the consequences! Though taking away the driving privilege for a period of time might not be convenient for you, it might end up saving your teen's life.

Return to The Allstate Foundation's Parent Tips for Teen Safe Driving