Risky Business: How Parents Can Help Protect Teen Drivers

Most parents are painfully aware that automobile crashes are a leading cause of injury and death among teenagers, but it’s still difficult for them to comprehend the chances their own children may take while driving or riding along with friends.1

Teen driver looking at phone. Chart: Teen driving risks: 59.9% have driven a car, 43.1% didn't always wear a seatbelt, 39% texted or emailed while driving, 5.4% drove after drinking, 16.7% rode with driver who was drinking.

Some kids seek a momentary thrill, while others simply give in to peer pressure. Underage drinking, texting, speeding, street racing, not wearing seatbelts, and just being distracted by friends are some of the behaviors that endanger the lives of teens and others around them every day.

As a parent, you could be held financially responsible if your child takes one of these unnecessary risks and causes an accident. Even if a teen driver manages to escape serious injury, your family’s insurance coverage and financial security could be in jeopardy.

What’s a Parent to Do?

Drivers ages 16 to 19 years old are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers ages 20 and older — and the risk of a crash is particularly high in the first months of driving. Inexperienced drivers are simply more likely to underestimate dangerous situations and less likely to recognize hazardous conditions, even if they are careful.2

Graduated driver licensing has been adopted in every state to help provide drivers ages 15 to 17 with more practice, rein in risky behavior, and save young lives. You might want to review the laws in your state and require your child to follow them, even though it is sometimes inconvenient. It’s safest not to let your child drive other teens for the first year, for example, and not to allow your child to be a passenger of other new drivers. It’s also a good idea to restrict late-night driving.

Teenage Confessions

Share of U.S. high school students who admitted to taking the following risks in the 30 days prior to taking the survey:
Teen driving risks: 59.9% drove a car, 43.1% didn't always wear seatbelt,  39% texted or emailed while driving, 5.4% drove after drinking,  16.7% drove with driver who was drinking.

Source: 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020

Finally, set a strong example behind the wheel and talk regularly with your teen about good driving habits. One way to make the rules and consequences clear is to create a parent-teen driving agreement and post it where both of you can see it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a sample agreement that you can download at cdc.gov/ParentsAreTheKey/agreement.

Insuring a Teen

Although insuring a newly licensed driver may come with sticker shock, rates typically go down as a young driver gains more experience and maintains a clean driving record. Many insurance companies offer a good student discount, typically for students with a B or higher grade-point average. Some companies also offer discounts to families who use electronic devices to monitor their children’s driving habits.