Many teens can’t wait for the freedom that comes with a driver license, but with that freedom comes great responsibility. Before you send them off on their own, understand these top five myths and truths about teen driving.
MYTH: Teens don’t listen to their parents, so conversations about driving safety don’t make a difference.
TRUTH: By talking to your novice drivers about safety, you can influence them to reduce risky driving behaviors, such as distracted driving, speeding and not wearing a seatbelt. Research shows that teen drivers whose parents establish rules about driving, initiate discussions about driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and set a good example are safer drivers.
MYTH: Teens usually crash because they drive recklessly.
TRUTH: Most crashes involving teens are the result of inexperience and a lack of the skills and judgment necessary for assessing and navigating traffic conditions, such as gaps in traffic. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens ages 15 to 18 in the United States, and that first year is the most dangerous.
One way you can decrease this risk for your young driver is to continue to spend time with them in the car while they are driving. Teens need practice, and getting that additional experience with a patient parent next to them can build confidence (both theirs and yours!).
MYTH: Teens who are inexperienced behind the wheel are more focused on driving.
TRUTH: Their inexperience actually makes them more easily distracted behind the wheel. That distraction doesn’t just take the form of texting (although one in three teens report they have texted while driving). It can also look like talking on the phone or trying to change the music on whatever phone app they use, applying makeup, eating, or talking with friends.
MYTH: Today’s teens are good about wearing seat belts.
TRUTH: Even if teens have grown up wearing seat belts when in the car with their parents, that doesn’t always translate to being good about buckling up when they get behind the wheel (or ride with other teen drivers). Use of seat belts is actually lowest among teen drivers, and the majority of teenagers involved in fatal crashes aren’t buckled up. In 2019, 45% of teen drivers who died were not wearing their seat belt, and 90% of passengers were unbuckled.
MYTH: Once teens get their license, they can drive whenever and with whomever they want.
TRUTH: Every state’s laws are different, but most states have restrictions for brand-new drivers. These additional rules and restrictions are intended to keep everyone safe.
Here in Arizona, drivers under the age of 18 who hold an instruction permit (not a license) can only drive if they have another licensed driver older than 21 in the front seat. For the first six months of holding a license, they’re not allowed to drive between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. (with some exceptions) and are limited to a single passenger under 18 (unless they’re driving siblings or have a parent/guardian in the front seat).
One of the best ways to keep teen drivers safe on the road is to start with good driver’s education. Our beginner and refresher classes can help your teen be the most informed, safe and defensive driver possible. Stop and Go Driving School’s Alive@25 course is another great option for ensuring your teen gets the experience they need to be a safe, responsible driver.