by Amanda Harrison

Learning to drive is an exciting rite of passage for teenagers — but for their parents, it can be a little stressful. Helping your teens build good driving habits now will help them stay safer for the rest of their lives, and can grant you huge peace of mind. Here are three ways to set your teenager up for success as they begin this exciting new phase of their lives. 

Get Them Set Up With Insurance

Driving always comes with risks, which means that it’s vital to help your teenager get insured as soon as they begin driving. Make sure they understand that uninsured driving is not only dangerous, it’s illegal — getting caught without insurance can lead to hefty fines and a license suspension. 

How your teenager gets insured will depend on your situation. If they need their own insurance, checking rate comparison sites like The Balance can help you find the best coverage for their needs. If your family already has an auto insurance policy, however, the cheapest option will generally be to add your teen directly onto it. While this can increase your rates — sometimes by up to 130 percent — there are ways to reduce these costs, such as taking advantage of a good student discount. 

Teach Them to Use Their Phone for Safety, Not Distraction

It is vitally important for your teenager to understand the consequences of using their phone while they drive. This dangerous behavior reduces focus on the road by 37 percent; in 2017 alone, over 3,000 people were killed in the U.S. from crashes caused by distracted driving. This risk can be especially high for teen drivers who are less experienced behind the wheel.

But while cell phones can be incredibly dangerous when used improperly, they are also useful tools — they’re necessary in emergencies, and can provide GPS services to prevent your teenager from getting lost. Many Android phones offer a feature called Android Auto. This creates a hands-free environment where the phone will respond to voice commands and easily allow your teenager to hear text messages or ask for directions without ever taking their eyes off the road. iPhone users can also utilize apps to help integrate the phone with the car for hands-free options, and can put their phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode to prevent distraction from incoming texts or phone calls while behind the wheel.

While these smartphone features can come in handy for your teen, they won’t be as effective without a good network connection. Before your teen starts getting behind the wheel, check your network coverage to make sure it’s fast and reliable. If you need a new coverage plan, refer to highly reputable providers like Verizon, which offers 4G LTE network coverage that’s available in most areas of the U.S.

Don’t Let Them Drive While Tired

One of the first things most teenagers will learn when they start to drive is the importance of not drinking and driving. But there is another incredibly dangerous driving behavior that isn’t talked about quite as frequently: drowsy driving. As the name implies, drowsy driving occurs when the driver has not gotten enough sleep — and, just as with drunk driving, drowsy driving impairs the driver’s ability to focus, decreases the driver’s inhibitions, and significantly slows down the driver’s reaction time. 

Drowsy driving may cause up to 6,000 fatal crashes every year, and part of the danger comes from the fact that many people simply underestimate how tired they are. Because of this, it is vital that you stress the importance of proper sleep to your teenager before they get behind the wheel. In general, teenagers need at least eight hours of sleep per night, and should try to avoid driving when sleep deprived or after they have been out late. 

Driving is an important life skill, and learning to drive is an exciting time in many people’s lives. By taking the time to help your teenager develop great habits now, you can help keep them safe and set them up for success throughout the rest of their life.