Driving safety tips for teens and first-time drivers – 2022 Guide

Young Woman On A Driving Test With Her Instructor

A new driver’s license is an exciting time for teens and parents alike. It’s a milestone and the first taste of freedom and independence, but it can also be a nerve-wracking experience.

Teenage drivers are more likely than experienced drivers to make fatal mistakes behind the wheel. According to The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, motor vehicle crashes are the second-leading cause of death for U.S. teens.

Fortunately, these driving safety tips for teens and first-time drivers will help you stay safe behind the wheel.

1. Learn the vehicle

Most teen drivers are eager to get behind the wheel and start driving around, but it’s important to understand all the controls of a vehicle before operating it. The owner’s manual can be helpful in learning about the lights on the dashboard and instrument panel and other functions.

It’s also a good idea to learn basic car maintenance, such as changing a tire and checking the oil levels. Learn how to locate and use the toolkit and jack, open the hood and check and refill oil levels, and learn how to change a tire and monitor tire pressure and tread depths. Teens, like all drivers, should have an emergency kit in the car that contains important items like a blanket, flashlight, and flares.

2. Adjust the settings

The routine for entering any vehicle should include adjusting the settings to ensure that the seat and steering wheel positions are optimal. The seat should be close enough for you to reach the pedals without your knees bumping the dash or steering wheel, and the back support should be close to straight for the best forward view. If the seat has an adjustable seat, check the angle to make sure you can easily operate the brakes and accelerator without lifting your heels from the floor.

The mirrors should also be adjusted to ensure a wide field of vision and remove blind spots. Adjust the rearview for an unobstructed view of the area behind the vehicle, and adjust the side view mirrors to see the side of the car and the adjacent lanes.

3. Limit distractions

Distracted driving is incredibly dangerous and can occur because of multitasking, like texting, noisy passengers, or drowsiness. Remove as many of these distractions as possible before operating the car.

For teens, smartphones are a big concern. Calls, texts, and social media notifications can distract a driver and pull their attention from the road. No notification is worth an accident, so put your phone on silent or enable the “do not disturb” mode while you’re on the road. If there’s an emergency and you have to make a call, pull over to a safe area.

4. Maintain a safe speed

Speeding is a contributing factor to numerous fatalities in motor vehicle accidents each year. For teens especially, it’s more difficult to control or stop a vehicle when it’s traveling at an unsafe speed. In addition, speeding also increases the impact – and possible injury – if you are in a crash. Always stay aware of your speed and obey posted speed limits.

5. Keep a safe distance

Rear-end collisions are a common type of car accident that results in injuries. Following a car too closely impedes your ability to come to a safe stop if the car ahead stops or swerves suddenly. Tailgating also limits sightlines and affects your ability to see what’s coming.

The rearview is just as important. Use your rearview to detect hazards on the road and take appropriate precautions, and always check for vehicles or obstructions in your blind spots when changing lanes.

6. Wear a seatbelt

While it may not be “cool” to wear a seatbelt, it’s vital for drivers to buckle up when driving or riding in a car. Teenagers tend to wear seatbelts less than other groups, which can lead to devastating injuries in an accident. Make seatbelts a priority for you and your passengers as soon as you get in the car.

7. Stay focused

Learning to drive can be anxiety-inducing for teens and parents alike. Parents must be patient and avoid overreacting to their teen’s mistakes while learning, and teens need to stay focused on the task at hand. Having an argument can compromise driving performance and reduce attention span, so discuss any feedback or mistakes when you’re out of the vehicle. If there’s a major error, pull over.

8. Practice

Teen drivers need a lot of practice for driving to become second nature. Once you get your learners permit, drive as much as possible, even if it’s just a short distance. Parents should allow teens to drive for quick errands and practice in parking lots as much as they can.

9. Drive solo

Some states have provisional licensing laws for teens, which means they aren’t allowed to drive with passengers unless they are over 20 years old and have a curfew to prevent late-night driving. This may continue for a year or until they turn 18. Check the laws in your state to learn the teen driver laws.

10. Don’t drive under the influence

Drinking alcohol or using drugs and driving is the most dangerous thing a teen can do. It’s important for both parents and teens to take a pledge never to drive under the influence or get in a vehicle with someone who is.

11. Ask questions

Driving can be overwhelming, so be sure to ask questions while learning. If you’re not sure how to approach a situation or how you could’ve handled something better, ask your parents or teacher. For parents, it’s important to use the learning period as an opportunity to teach teens and act as a role model.

12. Limit night driving

Driving at night is a special skill, and it takes a bit before teens can get their bearings, judge a vehicle’s position, and navigate the road in darkness. Nighttime accident rates are also higher than daytime rates for teens, so it may be best to limit night driving until your skills are more developed.

13. Avoid driving in inclement weather

While some situations are unavoidable, teens shouldn’t be driving in torrential rain or on snow-covered or icy roads. These situations are difficult for experienced drivers to navigate, even with four-wheel-drive vehicles. In addition to not knowing how to drive in inclement weather, teens don’t have the skill set to regain control of a sliding or slipping vehicle.

14. Always use turn signals

Research from the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) suggests that drivers who fail to signal contribute to two million collisions each year. A quarter of drivers don’t signal before they turn, and nearly half don’t signal when they change lanes. Using turn signals is vital to showing other drivers where you’re going and alerting them to your actions, so always use your turn signals.

15. Refresh driving knowledge

Teens have a lot of information to absorb for their drivers tests, so it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Bad habits can develop quickly, so it’s good to have a refresher for the road laws and stay current on the information.


Author: Tim Waldenback

Tim Waldenback is the co-founder of Zutobi, a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their license. Tim founded Zutobi to make world-class driver’s education fun, affordable, and easily accessible for all.