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As a parent, nothing induces feelings of anxiety quite like the thought of your teenager getting behind the wheel. Although this angst is unlikely to go away, there are proactive steps both parents and teen drivers can take to become as safe a driver as possible. Enrolling your teenager in a driver’s education course is one of the best options. While a driver’s ed course is a requirement in some states, it should be strongly considered no matter where you live in the country. The right course helps the teen driver become safer and more experienced in driving and, as a bonus, might help save money on car insurance in the long run.
Drivers education courses have been around for years, but the pandemic changed teen drivers’ access to in-person learning. Thankfully, restrictions have now mostly been lifted, and participants can take both instruction and the license road test in person again. Whether the course is required or not, additional drivers’ education is a significant step towards getting a teen driver prepared to drive independently.
Teen driver facts and statistics
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reviews data related to teen driving and has compiled a list of statistics highlighting how vulnerable teen drivers are on the road, including:
- Teens are more likely to underestimate or not be able to recognize dangerous situations, including critical decision errors leading to serious crashes.
- Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways.
- 40% of motor vehicle crash deaths among teens aged 13–19 occurred between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., and 52% occurred on Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
- 43.1% of U.S. high school students did not always wear a seat belt when riding in a car driven by someone else.
- Among drivers aged 15-20 involved in fatal crashes, 31% of male drivers and 17% of female drivers were speeding.
- 24% of drivers aged 15–20 were killed in fatal motor vehicle crashes that involved alcohol.
- Among drivers aged 15-20 involved in fatal crashes, 20% of male drivers and 14% of female drivers had been drinking prior to the crash. 60% of drivers aged 15–20 who were killed in motor vehicle crashes after drinking and driving were not wearing seat belts.
Driver’s education options
A variety of options are available for driver’s education and instruction. Each method has its pros and cons and should be carefully weighed depending on what works best for each family.
|Drivers education options||Description||Pros||Cons|
|DMV||Short for the Department of Motor Vehicles, this is a widely used name for each state’s licensing office. Each DMV may offer a list of certified education courses, both online and in-person.||Provides a centralized resource for parents and teens in most states.
Courses offered will follow state guidelines.
|Limited to options approved by the state.|
|High school||High schools may offer driving instruction, complete with in-person road practice and testing.||Can help satisfy state requirements for driver’s education in a familiar environment.
Peer-based learning is sometimes included.
May have online or in-person options.
|Typically does not include a road test.
Courses may or may not offer all the necessary education required to pass state tests.
|Parent taught||Parents may certainly have years of driving experience, which may qualify them for teen driving education. This is an informal way of learning that can be valuable but may not meet the state requirements.||Least expensive and most flexible option.
Can give the parent direct insight into the teen’s driving skills.
|Typically does not meet the requirement for state licensing.
Can bring added stress to parent/teen relationship.
|Private driving classes||Private driving instruction is a one-on-one individualized approach to teaching driver safety.||Gives students full attention from the instructor versus competing with other students for attention.
Private instruction will help drivers practice for the road test.
|Can be very expensive.|
Stages of earning a driver’s license
Some steps and stages are required before a teen obtains full driving privileges and an unrestricted driver’s license. Parents and teens alike can benefit from understanding what each step requires and how it leads to additional driving privileges once completed.
- Learner’s permit. This is the first license a driver can apply for and has restricted use. The driver can drive a car, but it is severely limited and usually requires the presence of a parent in the car.
- Provisional license. This type of license allows you to practice driving, but driving is still restricted. It is sometimes used interchangeably with learner’s permit but may not have as many restrictions. It is typically only issued to drivers between ages 15 to 18.
- Driver’s license. A standard driver’s license gives the user authorization to legally drive a non-commercial vehicle on any public road.
Graduated licensing laws by state
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), these are the current graduated licensing laws by state.
What are the benefits of a driver’s education course?
There are numerous benefits of a driver’s education course — not only for the teen driver but also for the parents. A driver’s education course may be seen as something a teen driver has to do simply for their license, but parents realize it has many other benefits.
- Prepares for road testing. A road test is typically required for anyone who wants to obtain a state driver’s license. A driver’s education test will provide guidance and practice for this portion of the exam.
- Gives more driving experience. One reason teen drivers face safety issues is due to lack of experience. The more hours a teen driver has behind the wheel with an instructor, the more experience they gain.
- Become safer on the road. Practicing, gaining experience and solid instruction are all ways your teen driver can become safer on the road. When they drive safer, it creates a safer environment on the roadways for everyone.
- Builds confidence. Not only does practice build confidence with their own driving, but teens also may feel a sense of achievement and accomplishment. A driver’s education course will give them greater confidence in handling potentially dangerous situations.
- Saves money on insurance. Adding a teen driver to a parent’s insurance policy will increase premiums. However, there is still a chance to save with car insurance even when adding a younger driver. Many insurance companies, for example, Allstate and Progressive, offer a discount when a driver’s education course is complete.
Parent and teen driver resources
- How to talk to your teen about drinking under the influence
- Parent teen driver contract
- Apps to promote safe driving in teens:
- Life360. This app allows parents to see the real-time location of your teen driver, gives feedback for drivers to improve safety and offers a Crash Detection Service.
- SafeDrive. This free app (with in-app purchase offers) provides monitoring of the teen driver, including speeding and other driving behaviors. Parents can also be notified when driving notifications have been disabled.
- TrueMotion. This app is for the whole family but gives parents the ability to monitor a teen driver’s driving behavior and habits. Includes feedback for all drivers.
- Teen driving tips
- Adding your child to your car insurance
- Tips for saving with teen driver discounts
- Car insurance for teen drivers