Parents play a crucial role in teen driver safety. According to research conducted at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), teens who say their parents set rules and pay attention to their activities in a helpful, supportive way are half as likely to be in a crash. The greatest lifetime chance of crashing for teens occurs during the first six to 12 months after receiving a license. That’s why setting house rules for teenage drivers and increasing driving privileges gradually is crucial.
Parents should know the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws for their state and use them to back up their house rules for first time drivers. GDL helps limit newly licensed teens exposure to known crash risk while still learning to drive.
Note that these rules for teenage drivers are to keep everyone in the car safe, not to keep them from having fun. Teens are old enough for parents to explain reasons for rules around driving. Some rules, such as seat belt use on every trip and no impaired driving or distracted driving, are non-negotiable, while others, such as driving in the snow or with peer passengers, may be loosened as experience and maturity are gained.
Some families use Parent-Teen Driving Agreements to guide these discussions. What’s important in setting house rules for first time drivers is that everyone in the family is on the same page about how to support them. This is the most dangerous time for new teenage drivers, and parents need to ensure that the family respects this. Be sure to keep the lines of communication open with teens so that there are regular opportunities to reinforce rules around driving safety and why everyone needs to abide by them.
Set these permanent house rules for teenage drivers:
- No cell phone use while driving – whether hands-free or hand-held—including at stoplights
- Follow all driving laws, including no speeding
- Always wear a seat belt, as a driver and as a passenger
- Do not drive while impaired (drugged, drunk, or drowsy) or ride as a passenger with an impaired driver
- Do not ride with an unlicensed or inexperienced teen driver
Set these initial limits to driving privileges for newly licensed teens:
- No peer passengers (Only allow adult passengers first; after the first six months of driving, include siblings as passengers only if they are properly restrained.)
- No nighttime driving (Only allow daytime driving first; gradually increase driving curfew after parent supervised practice driving at night.)
- No high-speed roads (Only allow low-volume, low-speed, familiar roads first; gradually add more difficult roads, such as highways, after practicing together.)
- No driving in bad weather (Only allow driving in fair weather driving conditions first; after practicing together, add driving in more challenging weather conditions, such as in light rain or snow.)
- Control the keys (Teen needs to ask to use the car first; gradually allow for more driving time after licensed for six months and track record in following house rules.)
Watch this video to keep the lines of communication going with your teen:
In 2020, 29% of young drivers (ages 15-20) involved in fatal crashes had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of .01 g/dL or higher; 82% of them had BACs of .08 g/dL or higher.