In Arizona there are roughly 100,000 car crashes each year. In 2014, more than 8,000 crashes involved people under the age of 24. Teaching your teen driver to be safer while driving is an important step to make sure that they are not only safe from injury, but that they don’t harm other people on the road.

The first step in teaching your teen to be a better driver is learning what distractions they might face on the road.

Cell phones—Not Just for Texting

Did you know that 53 percent of all American 6-year-olds have a cell phone? Letting your child have a cell phone, especially when they reach driving age gives you peace of mind knowing that they can call you, or call for help if they need it.

But phones aren’t just for talking anymore. Kids use their phones for building their perfect driving playlist, for getting directions to the new store where they are meeting their friends, scrolling through social media and texting. All of these things can cause unnecessary distractions while driving.

GPS: Teach your teen to input the address of their destination before leaving the driveway or parking lot. That way they aren’t flying down the street, glancing at the phone on their map, still trying to figure out why Siri wants to take them to an address in the next town over.

Same goes for music. Teach your teen driver the “set it and forget it” mindset. They should not be looking at their phone trying to skip to the next track while they are cruising down the freeway. If they have a passenger, encourage them to let that person DJ. If the passenger is you then by all means crank up that 80s rock. Then next time they are the passenger in your car, let them pick the music. Setting a good example for them is one of the best ways to ensure that your teen will be a safe driver. It might not seem like it anymore, but your teen is looking to you for driving tips, and your opinion means more than you think.

Texting: Some cities in Arizona have adopted stricter ordinances than others to try to manage texting and driving, but it isn’t technically illegal. However, that doesn’t mean it is encouraged. A study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory showed that texting and driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving.

Teenagers often feel invincible and have a “that could never happen to me” mindset, but the truth is that even sending just one text could be enough to distract them from the road long enough to cause an accident or fail to react to another car coming into their lane. This means no browsing through Facebook or Instagram while driving either.

Non-Electronic Distractions

Passengers: Every 16-year-old is going to want to take their friends for a drive as soon as they get their license, but studies show that the more passengers in the car, the more likely an accident is to happen.

One way to limit this danger is by putting a restriction on how many people are allowed as passengers in your teen’s car. In Arizona, new drivers aren’t allowed to have passengers in the car for the first 6 months he or she has a license unless the passengers are siblings or a parent or legal guardian. After that it is up to you to limit the number of people your teen drives around.

If you aren’t comfortable doing that (or don’t think they will listen to you) teach your teen driver that when they do have passengers in the car, it’s okay to ask them to turn the music down or stop rough housing in the back. It doesn’t make them lame, it makes them a good driver. Their friends will likely respect their wishes and may even adopt the same attitude themselves when they are driving.

Drinking and driving: Even if you don’t think your child is drinking, the fact is that 11 percent of all the alcohol consumed in the U.S. is consumed by young people ages 12 to 20. Even if you know your teen hasn’t experimented with alcohol yet, you never know when they will. So it is important to let them know that it is never okay to drink and drive. Set a zero-tolerance drinking policy and lay out the consequences clearly. Let them know that if they ever are in a situation where they have experimented with alcohol, they can call you to pick them up, no questions asked.

Late night driving: Did you know that in 2010, 41 percent of all teen driver fatalities happened between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.? That’s why it’s a good idea to limit your teen’s nighttime driving—especially during the first year they have a license. In Arizona, individuals aren’t allowed to drive between midnight and 5 a.m. during the first six months they have a license.

While it may be more dangerous for teens to drive at night, it’s also important for them to practice, so be sure to go driving with them after dark at least a couple of times a month so they can get the hang of driving at night with you there to provide tips and support.

Before They Hit the Road

Buckle Up: Of the teens that died in car crashes in 2012, 55 percent of them weren’t wearing seatbelts. Just because you set a good example and taught your child to always buckle up, it doesn’t mean that they will practice that same behavior when you aren’t around. Especially if he or she has a friend who doesn’t like to wear theirs—peer pressure can be a powerful thing. Teach your teen driver to not only buckle up each time they enter a vehicle, but to make sure their passengers are buckled up too. In Arizona, the driver of the car can be ticketed for having unbuckled passengers in their vehicle. Which reminds me, make sure your teen knows what to do if they get pulled over.

Vehicle maintenance: Before handing your child the keys, make sure they know some basic vehicle maintenance. You should teach them how to change a flat tire, check their vehicle’s fluid levels and jump-start a dead battery—all without the help of a smart phone—you never know when they might be stranded without it! Also make sure that your teen knows who to call if they need a tow. Many insurance policies will cover this service if you use one of their approved towing companies.

You can’t control every situation, but having a new driver in the family doesn’t have to be scary. As long as you teach your teen driver to limit distractions, never drink and drive, buckle up and maintain their vehicle, they will be at less of a risk.

At Gebhardt Insurance Group, we shop more than 40 insurance carriers to find the best insurance value in Arizona for your whole family. Call us at 520-836-3244 or calculate your coverage costs for free today.