How to Prepare Your Teen for Their First Car

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Friends going on trip

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites motor vehicle crashes as the primary cause of death amongst our nation’s teenagers. According to the CDC, teen drivers are three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers 20 years old and above.

Fortunately, parents can take proactive measures to help their teen stay safe while gaining the driving skills that only experience behind the wheel can bring.

Safety Comes First

There are a number of factors involved in choosing a suitable first car for a teenager. Before that choice is made, the driver’s skill and safe-driving practices take precedence. Preparing your teenager for their first car requires knowing and practicing fundamental safety measure — a valuable foundation to a lifetime of safe driving practices.

According to the CDC, there are proven strategies for preventing teen motor vehicle crashes, and improving young driver safety on the road. Knowing what circumstances and factors put teen drivers at risk helps parents implement prevention strategies and driver safety education at home.

The CDC cites the following proven methods which you can share with your child to help your teen become a safer driver:

  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Do not drink and drive.
  • Learn about the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws in your state. Following a GDL program increases teen driver safety.

Driver Education

While many parents teach their teen to drive, there are resources available to parents and teens in learning to drive and gaining supervised driving experience:

  • Search your state’s DMV website to get accurate information about state-approved driver’s education courses. The site also features a search tool to find state-specific information on Driver’s Ed age and eligibility-based requirements.
  • The American Automobile Association (AAA) provides DMV approved online driver instruction focusing on teen safe driving skills for a nominal fee. AAA includes a free online course for parents focusing on safety tips to be shared with their teens.
  • High schools frequently offer Driver’s Ed as part of the high school curriculum. Consult your local school for availability.

A Teen’s First Car

Some suggested tips from industry experts provide parents with a basic guideline to follow in choosing a first car for a teen. Keeping in mind each teen is an individual with differences driving skill and responsibility levels helps in making a choice. Different states, weather conditions, and where you live also weigh in as contributing factors.

The following basic tips serve as a guide:

  • Choosing a pre-owned vehicle reduces overall expense. Insurance premiums are lower, and repairs for fender-bender type dings will routinely cost less. Ensure you have the car checked by a reputable and trusted mechanic for both mechanical soundness and any potential safety issues. A good, mechanically-sound used care will provide reliable driving miles while not stretching the family budget.
  • Your teen should be financially responsible for his or her car, too. The expense of a car and keeping it operational and insured is a fact of car ownership. Go over the expenses involved with your teen, and decide which ones he or she should pay.
  • A sedan is teenage user-friendly. They are large enough to include your friends, and provide better driver protection in the event of an accident. A good, safe driving record with some years of driving experience may entitle a person to move-up to a more expensive, flashier or faster car. That privilege must be earned.

Your teen needs to understand that his or her car will only be as safe as the decisions made while operating the vehicle. Teach and encourage defensive driving, and foster pride in skilled, competent and responsible driving conduct.

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