Safe Driving Tips for Teenage Drivers [Comprehensive Guide]

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens aged 15-18. Read our guide below for safe driving tips for teenage drivers, including SIPDE and where to find supplemental teen safe driving courses. The high-risk teen drivers pose on the road means more expensive insurance rates. Follow these safe driving tips for young drivers to keep your rates as low as possible.

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Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently a professional writer.

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Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business. Brad is licensed in all P&C lines.

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Reviewed by Brad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Oct 26, 2020

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Things to know...

  • Teens’ accident risk is higher than any other age group
  • Parental involvement is key to mitigating risk
  • There are several risk factors that, when properly addressed, will decrease the risk of injury and death for teen drivers

Because teens are in the prime of life, it’s easy for them to view themselves as invincible, but these feelings can be misleading. In fact, teens are especially susceptible to injury and death in motor vehicle accidents.

Fifty percent of teen drivers will be involved in a crash before they graduate high school. The biggest cause of these accidents is inexperience. Even if a teen isn’t disobeying traffic laws, novice drivers tend to not be able to negotiate situations as well as experienced drivers.

Here are just a couple real-life examples of how inexperience can lead to injury:

  • A new driver on a two-lane highway may attempt to pass a slow-moving vehicle, but if they don’t judge the situation correctly, they may not leave themselves enough time and room to pass before oncoming traffic reaches them
  • Inexperienced teens may not accurately judge the speed of braking cars in front of them, which could lead to an inability to stop their own cars in time to avoid rear-end collisions and fender-benders

Each year in October, National Teen Driver Safety Week provides an opportunity to emphasize instruction in the best practices to keep teen drivers safe.

Because of the high risk of being involved in accidents, teen drivers cost a lot to insure. Once they receive their driver’s license, though, they legally must have insurance. To find the best option for insurance for a teen, enter your zip code into our free comparison tool above.

To jump directly to a section, click below:

Risk Factors

As mentioned earlier, inexperience is the biggest risk factor for teen drivers. Having an adult supervising can help mitigate this risk, but some of these other risk factors are easier to avoid:

  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Driving at night
  • Distracted driving
  • Teen passengers
  • Driving while tired
  • Reckless driving
  • Impaired driving

Teen drivers are at more risk for being involved in an accident than any other age group. Here are just a few of the statistics to back that up:

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How to Prevent Teenage Car Crashes: What is SIPDE?

SIPDE is an acronym used to teach new drivers how to be aware of their surroundings for safer driving (more on this in a minute). Obviously, the key to prevention of dangerous driving behavior is addressing each risk factor.

When a teen turns 16 (sometimes earlier, depending on the state of residence) he or she will probably be excited to start the driving experience. The ability to drive oneself gives much sought after independence and flexibility to the teen.

Unfortunately, studies show that the first six months after a teen gets a license are the riskiest for getting involved in a crash, primarily due to the lack of experience dealing with the stressors of driving.

CDC senior epidemiologist, Ruth Shultz, says,

The biggest risk for teen drivers is not knowing what they don’t know. They have not yet developed the unconscious driving behaviors — such as constantly scanning 360 degrees — that alert experienced drivers to potential hazards.

Commonly taught in driver’s ed and something that should be reinforced in the driver training process until it becomes a habit is the acronym SIPDE:

  • Scan – Scan the road ahead, the shoulders, the peripheral and even the rear (using mirrors)
  • Identify – Identify what has been scanned such a deer on the shoulder, a car with emergency flashers in use, children on the sidewalk, etc.
  • Predict – Predict what the identified subjects will do
  • Determine – Determine the action that should be taken, such as reducing speed, switching lanes, etc.
  • Execute – Execute what has been determined the best course of action

Even adult drivers with years of experience will benefit from consciously following this process.

Teen Driving: Addressing Risk Factors

Addressing the major risk factors for teens is mostly common sense. Education on the seriousness of each risk can help teens make the right decision to protect themselves.

  • Driver inexperience – Practicing SIPDE during every driving experience and receiving adult supervision for several months while driving can help teens gain the experience needed to make wise driving decisions
  • Not wearing a seat belt – Over half of teen (and adult) fatalities were drivers and passengers who were not buckled up. Wearing a seatbelt will help lower a teen’s risk of death or serious injury in a crash
  • Driving at night – Avoid driving during hours of darkness until gaining several months of experience driving during the day
  • Distracted driving – In almost every state, teens are banned from using a cell phone while driving, but just because it’s against the law doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Checking a text message takes eyes off the road for five seconds. At 60 mph, a car will travel 440 feet in five seconds. That’s significantly longer than a football field. Taking eyes off the road to check a text message could easily cause a driver to miss important information ahead and make it impossible to react appropriately
  • Teen Passengers – Since teen passengers drastically increase the likelihood of accident involvement, passengers should be limited. Each state has implemented restrictions on teen passengers and sometimes, for better safety, a parent may need to limit passengers even more than the state regulations
  • Driving while tired – Avoid driving at night and early in the morning. Be careful to get adequate sleep and don’t drive when tired
  • Reckless driving – Driving at appropriate speeds and leaving plenty of room between the car ahead are two of the best strategies to avoid reckless driving
  • Impaired driving – Teen drivers are 17 times more likely to die in an accident when their blood alcohol content is 0.08 percent or higher. Seventeen times more likely to die — let that sink in. Don’t drink and drive!

Parental Involvement

Parental involvement is critical. How can parents make a difference?

  • Draft a teen/parent driving agreement – Parents need to have clear expectations of their teens’ driving behaviors, beginning with following their state’s GDL laws regarding teen passengers and restricted nighttime driving. Consequences for breaking the agreement should be discussed and understood and incentives should be available for gaining experience and following the agreement
  • Guide teens through risky scenarios – The CDC lists eight major risk factors and talks parents through strategies to guide teens to safe navigation through the risk
  • Provide an example of good driving – If a parent demonstrates inconsistencies between their own driving and their instruction to their teen, their teaching loses credibility

Graduated Driver’s License (GDL)

The Graduated Driver’s License initiative taken by each state in the U.S. has universally improved teen safety more than any other method.

Each state in the U.S. has developed a graduated driving system for teen drivers. Statistical trends proved a drop in teen driving fatalities as states began to adopt GDL systems.

Florida blazed the trail for the graduated drivers’ license system in the 90s and the rest of the states followed with their own similar laws until the last state, North Dakota, adopted their GDL system in 2012.

Since the implementation of the GDL systems throughout the country, teen vehicular safety has risen undeniably. Each state developed their own regulations and some are more restrictive to teen drivers than others.

New Jersey is one of the toughest and doesn’t allow a teen to apply for a license until they are 17 years old and have had at least 12 months of driving experience.

New Jersey is one of the safer states when it comes to teen drivers, indicating their restrictions are effective. In the first year that New Jersey implemented their graduated driver’s license system — in 2010 — teen driving deaths decreased by 14 percent!

Most other states require six months of driving experience or a specific number of supervised hours logged before a teen is eligible for a driver’s license.

Teen Driver’s Education

A great first step for beginning drivers is to take a driver’s ed course. If you’ve found yourself asking, “Where are there drivers ed classes near me?” we’ve got you covered with programs offered through schools and supplemental safety courses.

These classes are frequently offered in high schools. Even if a child doesn’t attend a public high school, he or she is usually still allowed to attend driver’s ed at the public school.

There are also some driver’s education programs that can be taken by correspondence. Some of these programs are accepted by insurance companies who offer the same discount to teens who complete them as they do to those who complete traditional drivers’ ed.

This resource can help homeschool students find a suitable program for their location and situation.

Some of these correspondence programs include:

  • DriverEd in a Box – This is a learn-at-your-own-pace program. Clicking on this link will show a map that will offer state-specific information
  • – This website offers courses for each state. Many of the online classes can be taken for high school credit
  • – This program is relatively new and not approved in all states, but where it is approved, it has received high reviews.

Supplemental Teen Safety Courses

In addition to the driver’s ed programs required by most states, teens can benefit from these supplemental programs:

  • TeenSMART – This online program is designed to teach teens how to safely navigate driving situations, and those who complete the course are 30 percent less likely to be involved in a collision and have 51 percent fewer bodily injury claims than those who don’t take the course. As a bonus, there are several insurance companies that offer a discount for completing this program
  • B.R.A.K.E.S – This program is mostly local to North Carolina, but they do travel and offer their weekend program in other cities across the U.S. Parental involvement is a prerequisite of the program. Teens and parent(s) take the course together

Average Cost of Insurance for a Teenage Driver

Part of safe driving is having the right car insurance coverage for your teen driver. Maybe you’re uncertain of what you can expect when you go to apply. We can take some of the guesswork out of your search.

As with any insurance estimate, the devil is in the details. Factors such as where you live, type of car, grades, and more will affect your personalized quote.

The Driver Profiles and Stats

Our profile was for a full-time student, no tickets or accidents, no lapse, bodily injury state min, 2012 Honda Accord LX 4dr sedan bought used, 12-15k annual miles driven. We did a male and female for this profile.

No discounts were selected when attaining the quotes. However, some are automatically applied. The averages are from two national providers. Click here to review all our data and methodology.

  • 16-Year-Old Male Driver – $310.33 and $391.37
  • 16-Year-Old Female Driver – $283.29 and $373.31
  • 17-Year-Old Male Driver – $233.76 and $410.71
  • 17-Year-Old Female Driver – $216.67 and $391.54
  • 18-Year-Old Male Driver – $197.48 and $322.11
  • 18-Year-Old Female Driver – $180.59 and $303.28
  • 19-Year-Old Male Driver – $137.33 and $224.96
  • 19-Year-Old Female Driver – $153.52 and $223.96

While finding a fair price for car insurance for your teenager is important, make sure you carry adequate coverage. You never want to put your family in a position where your financial security is at risk.

Additional Resources

We’ve put together some of our favorite resources on teen driving and insurance:

Teen Emergency Preparation: My First Accident Guide

Statistics say that over 50 percent of teens will be involved in a crash. Even though prevention is key to lowering those odds, teens still need to learn how to react in the event of an accident.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has invested much research into teen driving and offers educational resources to teen drivers through their website. They list the steps for teen drivers (quoted below) to take following an accident.

“Step 1. Take a deep breath and slow down your heart rate so that you can calmly assess whether the crash is serious.

Step 2: Check yourself for injuries.

Step 3: Check on the well-being of your passengers.

Step 4: Get to safety. If the vehicle is drivable, turn on your hazard lights and pull over to a safe spot that is not blocking traffic, such as the shoulder of the highway. If the vehicle is not drivable, turn on the hazards and stay seat-belted.

Step 5: Call 911 or any other number your state uses to request emergency assistance on roadways. . . .

Step 6: Wait for help.

Step 7: Exchange information with the other drivers involved in the crash.

Step 8: Document the accident. Take notes and pictures once it’s safe to do so….

Step 9: Notify your insurer.”

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Teenage Driving Monitoring Devices

Parents who wish to monitor their teen’s driving habits can look into the following apps:

  • AT&T Drive Mode – This free app automatically turns on while the owner is driving and silences messages and phone calls. It also comes with parental alerts that notify parents if drive mode has been deactivated

  • DriveSmart – This app is free and monitors driving habits and offers a rating. It also disables calls and texts when its GPS service observes vehicle motion
  • TrueMotion – This incentive-based app can monitor a whole family’s driving habits and avoidance of distraction and rewards good habits with points that can be redeemed for cash or prizes
  • Automatic Smart Driving Assistant
  • RoadReady – Provides driving logs to parents to open conversations about driving habits and safety
  • Automatic – Car monitoring and driving data synced right to your smartphone

  • TextNinja – Provides positive reinforcement and gaming focus for safe driving.
  • DriveMode – “Simplified interface, easy-to-use voice commands, and large buttons, Drivemode is a driving app designed with safety in mind so you can stay focused on the road”
  • – Reads texts and emails aloud and allows response to prevent distracted driving
  • Defensive Driving 101 – This app is an education resource to improve defensive driving
  • Hum – Provides car diagnostic, driving history, and so much more

  • LifeSaver – Detects driving and enacts features to encourage safe driving
  • Steer Clear – “Reinforce[s] safe driving habits for young drivers up to 25 years old. Drivers can record their trips, track their progress, and earn a discount on State Farm® car insurance”
  • TextLimit – Provides complete control over a phone when it’s on the move
  • GoTrueMotion – Provides an overview of your driving habits as well as positive reinforcement for safe driving

This category of app is constantly growing, so don’t hesitate to utilize new tech to help your teen driver.

Also, some vehicles offer built-in parental monitoring systems like

The 7 Proven Safest Cars for Teens

The newest cars offer the most safety technology, but they’re also expensive, and when insurance costs are factored in, some parents will need to find a balance of safety and cost.

Recommendations for Car Shopping for Your Teen

Here are some recommendations to follow:

  • Set expectations early for the type of vehicle you’re searching for
  • Avoid vehicles with heavy-duty engines and lots of horsepower
  • Avoid vehicles that are old and could be lemons. Nothing adds stress to new drivers like a car that might not run properly.
  • Avoid brand new cars — many will increase your insurance cost
  • Carefully assess which safety features are most important for your teen
  • Carefully assess which car features could be a distraction for your teen
  • Shop around for car insurance before purchasing your teen’s car — get two to three quotes from different providers
  • Review IIHS Top Safety Picks
  • Review consumer sites for car ratings, recalls, and maintenance costs

7 Safe Cars to Jumpstart Your Search

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety published a list of their recommended used vehicles for teens, and CBS News recommends the best vehicle in each class for teen drivers:

  • 2012 Honda Accord
  • 2007 Volvo S80
  • 2009 Subaru Forester
  • 2011 Kia Sorento
  • 2011 Chevrolet Traverse
  • 2011 Honda Odyssey
  • 2007 Toyota Tundra

The statistics regarding teens and driving are scary, but there are so many steps teens and parents can make to be proactive and lower the risk and ensure driving only enhances life for a teen.

Get the insurance necessary for your teen driver and don’t overpay for it. Compare quotes below to get started.



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