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Talking to Teens

Worried about your teen driver? So are we.

Motor vehicle crashes kill more teenagers than all other major causes of death combined. Parents are the most important influence on teen drivers and may be the key in getting young drivers to treat driving as a serious responsibility. Parents who set rules and monitor their teen’s driving behavior in a supportive way can cut crash risk in half. []

  • Driving is an important and all-consuming task
  • As a driver you have a responsibility to everyone else on the road to be safe
  • As a driver you have the lives of your passengers in your hands



Three out of 4 serious teen driver crashes are due to a critical driving error. The most common errors are:

  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Being distracted, whether from a fellow passenger or cell phone
  • Failing to detect a hazard


Texting and driving is killing more teens than drinking and driving. Talk with teen drivers about what activities can be distractions and how to eliminate those distractions. 66 percent of teens say their parents influence their cell phone use behind the wheel, more than the law does. Take an active approach by talking about being in the right mindset for driving and remaining focused on driving. Before you had the keys over, teach teens critical driving skills; like how to scan around you and think ahead.

Parents should practice driving with their teen and log as many miles as possible together. During practice sessions, have your teen get ready before the key is turned by doing the following:

  • Choose the radio station or playlist before putting the vehicle in drive
  • Put the phone out of sight and reach
  • Make sure all objects are secure and where they need to be
  • Find glasses and sunglasses
  • Adjust the heat or air to a comfortable temp
  • Know the destination and have the route established


Make sure you practice the driving habits you want your teen to have. Set an example; don’t talk, text, eat, or engage in other activities while you are driving. Don’t speed. Demonstrate how to be alert and focused. Show your teen how you live by the Code for the Road.

Talk with your teen to set rules for the road:

  • Ensure teens understand that driving is a responsibility and can be dangerous. Talk about how the dangers extend beyond your teen driver; two out of three fatalities in teen driver crashes are teen passengers.
  • Limit the number of teen and adolescent passengers—this is critical in the first year of driving. The risk of a fatal crash for a teen driver increases exponentially with each teen or adolescent passenger. [CHOP, 2008]
  • Know where teens are going and when they’ll be home
  • Set a curfew to reduce the risks associated with night driving
  • Provide standards for vehicle upkeep
  • Insist all passengers buckle up
  • Ask passengers to refrain from distracting behavior



Young people are the least likely to say something when riding with a driver who is talking on a cell phone or texting. Empower your teen to Speak Up! against distracted driving—by asking the driver to put the phone down or by asking passengers to help the driver focus on the road. Teach teens to never ride with someone who has been drinking or doing drugs. North Dakota teens are encouraged to take the pledge to Speak Up! against distracted driving at Check out this video from Sydney Helgeson, Miss State Capital’s Outstanding Teen 2016, about taking the pledge to Speak Up! against distracted driving:


Driving a vehicle is a responsibility. If rules aren’t followed, then parents need to follow through with reasonable punishment­–even if it means taking away the keys. Consider installing a monitoring device in your teen’s vehicle as some insurance companies offer these devices along with a good driver discount. When teens show responsible behavior and follow the rules their future is protected.

Support for parents of teen drivers can be found at: