Handing over a set of car keys to your first-time teen driver can be exciting and frightening at the same time. Setting the right expectations and rules before they get behind the wheel can help you prevent potential accidents and keep your teen safe. Beyond driver's education and that all-too-familiar time spent circling an empty parking lot while your teen practices making left turns and parallel parking, you should set time aside to sit with your teen driver to lay down the ground rules so that they feel as though they are part of the process and have complete clarity on the established rules you will be agreeing to before they get behind the wheel solo. Here are some helpful topics to get you started on your own set of rules for your first-time driver.
1. Avoid Distractions
These days, many drivers can be so occupied with their phones, navigation systems, and other electronic devices that their vehicle becomes a 65 mph hour hazard. First-time drivers are inexperienced and it’s critical to establish a zero tolerance rule for texting and other distractions. Answering a call or replying to a text can wait. Give your teen driver an alternative, like pulling into a parking lot or waiting to respond to a call or text until they reach their destination. A good way to enforce this rule is to set the example when you’re driving with your teen so they understand that distractions can certainly be avoided.
2. Set a Curfew
Nighttime driving is different from day driving—no matter if you’re an experienced driver or a first-time driver. There are increased risks on the road at night and taking extra precaution is necessary. Set a curfew of when you expect your teen driver home on weekdays and weekends. Talk to them about staying extra alert when driving through crosswalks, local streets, and on the freeway at night because it’s harder to see people, objects, and other potential road hazards.
3. Safety First
According to a recent study regarding motor vehicle safety and teens from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), states teen drivers have among the lowest rate of seat belt usage. In 2015, only 61% of high school students reported they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else. Whether your teen driver is driving or a passenger, set the expectation that they must wear a seat belt at all times when traveling in a vehicle. Talk to your teen driver about following the speed limits and obeying road signs.
4. Never Drink and Drive
Parents of a first-time teen driver are already on edge when it comes down to the day they hand over their car, but dealing with drinking while driving raises the bar. Talk with your teen driver about why they shouldn’t drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs and why they shouldn’t get into a car when the driver’s been drinking. Make it clear that no matter the time of day, they can call you for a ride and that your primary concern is their safety.
Related reading: Save Money on Your Teenage Driver's Auto Insurance
5. Car Maintenance
Your first-time driver may not quite appreciate the value of a vehicle, but helping them understand the expense and the importance of vehicle maintenance can help them gain some perspective. Simply going over the importance of regular oil changes, checking tire pressure, and fluid level checks can empower your teen driver to take ownership of their vehicle's maintenance. Discuss with your teen driver why it’s so important to keep your car maintained to help avoid costly repairs and remain safe while driving.
6. Obtain Reliable Auto Insurance
Maintaining auto insurance is the law—you already know that, but your teenage driver may not. Be sure you call your auto insurance carrier to add your new driver to the policy so they’re covered if an accident occurs. You can educate your teen driver about the importance of obtaining auto insurance and how not having it can cost them a great deal of money if they’re ever in an accident. Make this the number one rule they must follow as a driver on your current policy and when they purchase their first car. It’s a good rule to instill early on to be a responsible driver.
The road rules you set up today will be the building blocks for your young driver, and will hopefully serve as the foundation that keeps them safe on the road for years to come.