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How to Keep Your Teen Safe Behind the Wheel

Driving instructors may teach rules and regulations, but parents impart responsibility. Make sure your kid is ready to hit the road before handing over the keys.

Car crashes are the leading cause of fatal injuries for teens. But here's some good news: While the number of vehicle miles traveled on the nation's roads increased between 2000 and 2009, the death rate declined. That's mostly because states and communities implemented new safety laws to minimize danger. Still, parents play an important part in keeping their kids safe.

Parent Checklist

With a little preparation and a lot of patience, you can help your teen become a smart driver.

  • Foster an open, honest learning environment at home.
  • Emphasize that driving is a privilege and that distracted driving will not be tolerated.
  • Initiate frequent conversations about road rules and responsibilities, and listen to kids when they have questions or concerns.

Free Online Driving Training Programs

Encourage your teen to brush up on her skills with one of these options.

StartSmart (AAA)

Provides safety guides for parents and kids and offers sample driving test questions, webisodes and newsletters.

Allstate Teen Driver

Prizes like music and gift cards are earned for making safe driving pledges, playing interactive games and creating a parent-teen driving agreement.

Teens Drive Smart (Bridgestone)

Kids can read safe-driving blogs, find out how to approach friends about dangerous driving behavior and watch videos about dealing with unexpected issues on the road.

Better Teen Driving (State Farm Insurance)

The "Tips for Teens" section includes stats on drinking and driving, risk factors and how to be a good passenger when friends are behind the wheel.

Toyota Teen Driver

Encourages kids to participate in an interactive road distraction challenge, test their driving IQ, make an automotive budget and learn to deal with peer pressure.

Driving Skills for Life (Ford)

Students can participate in safe-driving activities and learn about car care, while a coaching guide is available for parents and educators.


Launched in 2010, Ford's "30-City, 15-State Tour" invites teens to participate in real driving exercises in specially designed cars. Semi trucks roll into school parking lots all over the country and teens get to experiment with vehicle-handling during skids, wear "fatal vision" goggles to simulate being under the influence of alcohol, and text while trying to maneuver between cones. To nominate your kid's school as a stop on the 2012 tour, contact Driving Skills for Life through its website.