Strapping yourself into the passenger seat the first time your
teenager takes the wheel is one of the scarier turning points of
Teen drivers are four times more likely to crash, on a per-mile
basis, than older drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for
Highway Safety. They are notorious for taking stupid risks and
being overconfident about their driving ability.
But before you start lecturing your kid, take a look in the
mirror. Many of the mistakes teen drivers make stem from things
they learn from parents.
"You hear all kinds of crazy stuff," says Sharon Postigo Fife,
The Driving School Association of the Americas
in Kettering, Ohio.
Here's some of the worst driving advice parents give their
teenagers. (See "
Are American teens the worst trained drivers in the
Do as I say, not as I do.
Telling your kid about the danger of texting and driving won't
do any good if you pick up your cell phone while motoring down the
"Parents say one thing, and then do something different," says
Brandon Dufour, general manager of
, a driving school headquartered in Watertown, Conn. "Starting at
about age 11 or 12 your child is paying attention to your driving
habits and noting consciously or subconsciously all those things
you do ."
Two-thirds of surveyed teens say their parents live by different
driving rules than the ones they expect their kids to follow,
according to research in 2012 by
Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against
. Ninety-one percent reported seeing their parents talk on a cell
phone while driving, 88 percent observed their parents speeding and
59 percent said their parents have sent text messages while
"Kids figure, 'If Mom can do it, I can do it,'" Dufour says.
It's OK to speed a little.
Brad Ault, president of the Florida Professional Driving School
Association and Ault's Driver Education Center in Englewood, Fla.,
says he hears parents tell teens it's all right to drive 5 mph over
the speed limit because "everybody does it."
But they should teach their kids to obey the speed limit and to
drive according to conditions. Too many drivers don't slow down
when the weather is bad.
"That's what kills a lot of people," Ault says.
A speeding ticket even for 5 mph over the limit can affect your
car insurance premiums, says Penny Gusner, CarInsurance.com
consumer analyst. "One minor ticket could go either way," Gusner
says. "But two tickets -- even if they are both minor -- are a
pattern that will scare your insurance company."
Pump the brakes to prevent skidding.
Before modern brake systems were developed, drivers were told to
pump the brakes to prevent them from locking up. But most cars
today are equipped with anti-lock brakes, making pumping
unnecessary, says Casey Carden, regional chief instructor for the
Southeast for the Skip Barber Racing School in Braselton, Ga.
Anti-lock brakes are designed to prevent your car from skidding
when you use them in an emergency. For a vehicle without anti-lock
systems, Carden advises letting up on the brakes slightly, rather
than pumping them.
"Pumping the brake pedal upsets the balance of the car," he
Airbags and anti-lock brakes, though nearly universal on newer
cars, still bring a car insurance discount with most companies.
Look over the hood ornament as you drive.
Looking over the hood ornament doesn't give the driver enough
scope. You should look farther up the road -- one to two
intersections ahead -- in the city and as far as you can scan in
the country, Fife says.
Keeping your eyes farther ahead, rather than focusing right in
front of you, gives you greater peripheral vision, Carden says.
"While you're driving, you want to see everything, but look at
nothing," Carden says. "You want to be fully aware of what's going
on around you."
Plus, how many cars have hood ornaments these days?
Hold the steering wheel at 10 and 2.
You might have been taught to hold the steering wheel in the 10
and 2 positions, envisioning the steering wheel as a clock. But
that advice became outdated when airbags were developed, Ault says.
Today driving instructors generally tell drivers to hold the wheel
at the 10 and 3 positions, avoiding an explosively deployed
All new cars sold today have at least front airbags, but most
have side airbags as well. Some manufacturers now offer center
knee, seat belt and even pedestrian airbags. (See "How many airbags
does a car need?")
Wait until you're 18, so you can skip all the
Many states require classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction
for teen drivers to get licensed, but most don't require driver
education for new drivers or place restrictions on them once they
reach 18. Fife says some families put off letting their kids drive
until 18 so they can skip all those pesky requirements in place for
But new drivers of any age can make mistakes from inexperience
and lack of instruction. If the licensing age rises to 18 without
the proper safeguards in place, Fife says, the crash rate for
18-year-olds will increase.
"I think this country takes driving as joke," she says.
If more than 30,000 people died in a U.S. tragedy, she adds,
"You'd be hearing all about it. But every year that's how many
people die in car crashes."