Handing the Keys Over to Your Teen Driver?

Handing the Keys Image

“With great power, comes great responsibility.”

If you’ve ever read the comic books, or seen one of the movies, you’ll know these words were made famous in The Amazing Spiderman as the hero seeks motivation to always do the right thing.  It was a lesson he learned from his late uncle when he was still a teen.  This phrase can also apply when you hand the keys of your family car over to your teen for the first time.

It may seem a little dramatic, but it’s also extremely fitting.  Being a safe driver is the responsibility for anyone who drives.  While passing your final road test and earning a license isn’t quite as cool as getting superpowers, for the average teenager, access to the family wheels is likely pretty darn close.

This is why it is very important that parents and caregivers take the time to discuss – and re-discuss – the responsibility of getting behind the wheel with their young drivers.  It’s exhilarating, but it doesn’t come without risks, especially when you consider:

Of course, these stats aren’t meant to frighten you into never letting your teen drive; they’re meant to provide some context on how important it is to talk about the risks and your expectations of your young driver.

What should teens look out for?

In addition to telling teens to be careful, there are four key areas that you should talk about with your young driver:

  1. Avoid distractions.
    Distracted driving affects us all.  And we’re not just talking about texting and talking on the phone.  Smoking, eating, drinking, applying makeup, and interacting with other passengers can all be significant distractions.  In fact, a teen driver’s risk of being in a crash doubles if s/he has two teen passengers.  Three passengers can quadruple the risk.
  2. Watch your speed.
    Whether it’s due to overconfidence or not properly assessing road conditions, speeding contributes to the severity of collisions.  It cuts down a driver’s ability to react to changes on the road and greatly increases the force of impact when a vehicle hits something.  Speeding is a problem for young drivers, as 40 per cent of speeding drivers involved in fatal collisions are between the ages of 16 to 24.  More mundane implications are also a concern.  A single conviction for speeding can cause a 20 per cent increase in the cost of your auto insurance, which can be especially costly for younger drivers.
  3. Always buckle up.
    A 2010 study found that young males aged 18 to 24 are the group that’s least likely to wear seatbelts.  That’s a scary thought, considering that in 2007, the seven per cent of Canadians that did not wear seatbelts accounted for almost 40 per cent of collision fatalities.  It may seem trite to point out that seatbelts save lives, but they do.  When worn correctly, they can reduce the chances of death in a collision by 47 per cent and serious injury by 52 per cent.
  4. Never drive impaired.
    Impaired driving is another socially unacceptable behaviour that people unfortunately still engage in.  And while older adults have plenty to answer for in this regard, younger drivers are heavily represented in this area.  The statistics are staggering:
    – Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16 to 25 year olds, and alcohol and/or drug impairment is a factor in 55 per cent of those crashes.
    – 16 to 25 year olds constituted 13.6 per cent of the population in 2010, but made up almost 33.4 per cent of alcohol-related traffic deaths.

Before handing over your keys, it’s important to have a discussion with your young driver about impaired driving and to let them know that no matter what time of day or night, if they wind up drinking or taking a controlled substance, they should never drive or accept a ride from someone else who is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

When to add new drivers to your insurance

If your teen has started to learn how to drive, you should call your insurance agent or broker.  Why?  Even if they won’t be driving regularly (or much at all), insurers look at how long someone has been continuously insured when determining rates.  Based on your teen’s licensing level and driving behaviour, having them listed as a principal driver or as a listed operator will likely pay off for them in the long run in terms of their insurance history.

Parents should also always strongly consider getting drivers in their household trained by a registered professional driver’s education course.  In addition to teaching drivers correct techniques in handling a vehicle, graduates of these programs may also qualify for insurance discounts.

These are only a few of the things your teen driver has to think about when they’re behind the wheel, in addition to considering how to handle bad weather conditions or people trying to lure others into “on purpose accidents”.  Check out our Parent-Teen Safe Driving Agreement to help you get the conversation started with your young driver.  Hopefully with some coaching, they can consider the risks behind the freedom of getting out on the road so that they can always return home safe and sound.

Are there any other considerations for teen drivers that you think we’ve missed?  Let us know in the comments!