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Teen Driving Safety: A Guide for New Drivers

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Eric Stauffer is a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. His priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best...

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UPDATED: Mar 18, 2020

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Learning to drive is an important rite of passage. In America, the car is an essential part of the culture, and gaining a learner’s permit or driver’s license is many teenagers’ first step into adulthood and independence — but it also comes with a new level of responsibility.

Teenage drivers are often faced with higher insurance premiums due to their age, lack of experience, and penchant for accidents. How can teenagers learn how to drive properly and safely?

This guide from Expert Insurance Reviews will cover everything teens and parents need to know about proper driving protocol, why it matters, and what questions to consider before letting a teen behind the wheel.

Although driving may be a rite of passage, it’s important to make sure your family stays safe on the road, no matter who is behind the wheel.

The Leading Cause of Death in Teens

Although cars are integral to American culture and have improved dramatically in terms of safety over the past few decades, they are still extremely dangerous when not utilized properly.

Unfortunately for many teenagers, driving can be a risky activity, and teen driving is seen as a leading concern among healthcare officials, not just nationally, but globally.

Inexperience and inattentiveness — even for a moment — can have serious repercussions.

As noted by both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), reckless driving and car-related accidents are a leading cause of death for many teens and adolescents in the U.S.A. and in other parts of the world.

The CDC states that unintentional injuries and accidents were a leading cause of death for teens aged 15-19 in 2016. As for the WHO, they note that: “In 2016, over 135 000 adolescents died as a result of road traffic accidents.”

These adolescent health risks or accidents include both drivers and “vulnerable road users,” meaning pedestrians, cyclists, and motorized two-wheel vehicles.

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Teen Driving Statistics

Because motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for many teens aged 15-19, it’s important to understand the risks both new and inexperienced drivers may face. Below are some statistics on the risks and causes of teen motor vehicle accidents:

  • According to the CDC’s Facts on Teen Drivers:
    • “In 2016, 2,433 teens in the United States ages 16-19 were killed and 292,742 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. That means that six teens ages 16-19 died every day due to motor vehicle crashes and hundreds more were injured.”
    • “In 2016, young people ages 15-19 represented 6.5 percent of the U.S. population. However, they accounted for an estimated $13.6 billion (8.4 percent) of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries.”
    • Those most at risk include male drivers (who were twice as likely to be involved in a crash as female drivers), teens driving with other teen passengers that may cause a distraction, and newly licensed drivers (risk of a crash is substantially higher during the first few months after being licensed).
    • The CDC also notes that teens are more likely to speed, make risky moves, underestimate dangerous situations, drive at night, and not wear a seatbelt compared to older drivers. Lack of experience, lack of supervision, and alcohol use can all contribute to this higher rate of dangerous driving and motor vehicle accidents.
  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute (IIHS-HLDI) notes that teenage drivers face additional risks, including:
    • Teen drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a crash compared to older drivers due to immaturity (which leads to risky behaviors) and inexperience.
    • Teens that participate in a graduated driver’s license (GDL) program are less at risk of experiencing a crash, partially due to required supervised driving time, as well as restrictions on graduated licenses, such as not driving after 8 pm.
    • IIHS states: “Alcohol is a factor in many teen crashes. Although young drivers are less likely than adults to drink and drive, their crash risk is higher when they do.”
  • The IIHS-HLDI has also been tracking teen fatality trends for some time, and through their latest research has found that:
    • “A total of 2,734 teenagers ages 13-19 died in motor vehicle crashes in 2017. This is 69 percent fewer than in 1975 and 4 percent fewer than in 2016.”
    • Two-thirds of all teenagers killed in crashes in 2017 were male.
    • “Since 1975, teenage crash deaths have decreased more among males (72 percent) than among females (58 percent),” although both are steadily decreasing, overall.
    • “In 2017, teenage crash deaths occurred most often in July. October and August also saw elevated crash deaths among teens.” Additionally, 51 percent of these crashes in 2017 happened on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
    • The majority of crashes occurred between 9 pm-midnight (17 percent), while 16 percent of crashes occurred between 6 pm-9 pm, and another 16 percent occurred between 3 pm-6 pm.

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)

As mentioned earlier, graduated driver’s license (GDL) programs can significantly benefit young teen drivers, as well as lower their risk of a potential accident.

Luckily, all states in the U.S.A., as well as Washington D.C., offers some variation of a graduated driver’s license program.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4fb7fcgcig

These programs first became available in the 1990s, and are designed to assist teens in skill-building exercises related to driving, as well as help them understand the signs, rules, and laws of the road.

It also provides them with a safe environment to experience driving under the supervision of an adult; either their instructor, a parent, or a legal guardian.

As the CDC discusses the purpose of GDL programs in their Facts on Teen Drivers (linked above):

“GDL provides longer practice periods, limits driving under high-risk conditions for newly licensed drivers, and requires greater participation of parents as their teens learn to drive.

Research suggests that the more comprehensive GDL programs are associated with reductions of 26 [percent] to 41 [percent] in fatal crashes and reductions of 16 [percent] to 22 [percent] in overall crashes, among 16-year-old drivers.”

The CDC also notes that each state has a different plan in place for how their GDL program functions, but the CDC also provides a GDL Planning Guide that is intended to help states follow their formula of evidence-based practices that provide the greatest benefit to teen drivers.

The Planning Guide suggests a three-stage system that some (but not all) states follow, which is as follows:

  • Learner’s Permit: The student participates in a class and obtains a learner’s permit that only allows them to drive with supervision from an adult licensed driver.
  • Intermediate License (Provisional License): The student can drive without supervision, but only during low-risk conditions or with tight restrictions. These restrictions can vary by state.
    • Some common restrictions include driving only during the daytime, no texting and driving, and no teenage passengers (or not more than one teenage passenger at a time). As noted by the New York Times, some states are creating further restrictions on curfews, passengers, or training for both teens and parents in order to curb the number of teenage accidents occurring in those states.
  • Unrestricted License: After passing the second stage, the student can then participate in the written and practical state driver’s license exam and earn a regular driver’s license with no restrictions.

GDL programs have multiple benefits, as they not only can reduce the risk of vehicle accidents, but they can also prepare teenagers for what to do in dangerous situations on the road.

Plus, participating in GDL programs has the potential to lower the cost of car insurance for some young drivers.

To find out more about GDL programs, any potential restrictions, or at what age students can first sign up, check out the IIHS-HLDI website for a list of GDL programs by state.

Learning How to Drive a Car for the First Time

Once a teen is ready to start learning how to drive, they should always be accompanied by either a parent or an instructor that can help them on their first trip.

Below are some tips on what to consider during those first few times behind the wheel, and the process that teens may expect before gaining their unrestricted license.

Tips for the First-Timer

For that first time behind the wheel, teens may either feel excited or nervous; or a mix of both! Driving a car can seem easy when you’ve done it for years, but for a first-timer, there are many different little things to consider.

For that first trip behind a wheel, it’s important to have a parent or adult instructor in the car with the teen. Also, be sure to check the following:

  • Adjust the rearview mirror, side mirrors, seat, and headrest so that the teen is comfortable and can utilize everything properly. Ensure they are familiar with where the windshield wipers, blinkers, and headlights are located on the car, and that they know how to use each.
  • Double check that they are familiar with the concept of “blind spots,” and that they are prepared to check them anytime they change lanes or turn.
  • Turn off any cell phones or other distractions, including music or even the radio if that is a potential distraction.
  • Allow the teen to relax and focus on the road and what they’re doing inside the car.
  • Be sure to try out driving for the first time in a familiar location, potentially away from busy streets or the freeway. If possible, find an empty parking lot, subdivision, or other quiet areas where the teen can experiment with driving properly without worrying about other drivers on the road (for now).

Once the teen is comfortable, they can begin testing out the brakes and getting familiar with the car.

It may be natural to drift off towards the right shoulder when first starting to drive, but the adult passenger can encourage the teen to stay centered in their lane or on the road and follow the posted speed limit.

Check to see that they use their blinker properly when changing lanes or turning onto a new road.

Once the teen has experienced driving for the first time, they can continue to practice in driver’s education programs, or with the guidance and supervision of a parent.

The next few steps will be to gain additional experience and a GDL, followed by an unrestricted license after passing the state driver’s exam.

Safe Driving Tips for Teens

For teens that are already familiar with driving, or have had their GDL or unrestricted license for some time, the following are some important safety tips to keep in mind as they gain more experience on the road.

Perform a Vehicle Safety Check

Safe driving is more than just knowing the rules of the road, it’s also knowing how your car functions and how to identify potential emergencies or potential safety issues. The following is a list of items you should investigate when performing a vehicle safety check:

  • Important Documents: Although not essential to the function of the car, there are some important documents that you should ensure are in your car before you drive. That way, if you’re ever pulled over, in an accident, or are just trying to find your information, you know where it is and what it looks like. Make sure you have the following:
  • Current Vehicle Registration
  • Proof of Insurance: Some companies now have mobile apps for this, but it’s still good to have a physical copy of your insurance available in your car, just in case. Additionally, it is the law that all drivers and student drivers have liability car insurance for themselves and their car.
  • Driver’s License or Permit
  • Tires: It’s important to know how to check the pressure of your tires and to be aware of your tire’s treads. If possible, learn how to change a tire, or how to switch out a spare. Alternatively, make sure you have some form of roadside assistance handy in case you are not able to change the tire yourself.
  • Lights and Signals: Be sure that all your lights are working, that you know where to find them or turn them on, and that none of the bulbs are out or need to be replaced. Check the following:
  • Left and right turn signals
  • Headlights
  • Brake lights and reverse lights
  • Hazard lights
  • Leaks: Regularly check the car for any potential leaks or breaks. If you move the car in the driveway and notice a puddle or an oily residue beneath the car, then you may need to take your car in for a tune-up to ensure it isn’t leaking oil, coolant, wiper fluid, or other chemicals. Checking this is not only important for the overall health of the car, but also important for the environment and your pets. Things like antifreeze or coolant can be toxic to pets and the environment.
  • Wipers: Double check that your wipers are functioning, your front window is clean, and that you have ample wiper fluid in case your window gets dirty. Know how to access and use these devices.
  • Mirrors: Always check your mirrors before beginning your drive; be sure that they are in the right position, and that they are in good condition.
  • Brakes: Test the brakes and the emergency brake to ensure they’re working properly. If you’re unsure about them, take your car into a mechanic as soon as possible to make sure the brake pads aren’t worn out and that you have plenty of brake fluid.
  • Horn: Make sure your horn functions properly.
  • Check for damage: Regularly check your tires for air leaks, your windows for cracks, and your doors for scratches, dings, or to ensure it locks properly.

Pay Attention and Avoid Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is extremely dangerous and is one of the primary causes of accidents, especially for teen drivers. Distracted driving can come in many forms; below are some examples, and what’s best to do in order to maintain attention.

  • Passenger distractions: Whether you’re driving with your best friend or a parent, talking with your passenger can easily get distracting while you’re learning to drive a car. Politely ask your passenger to not talk to you while you’re trying to concentrate, or to keep the conversation topics to a minimum until you’ve both arrived at your destination.
    • As you gain experience driving, talking may become less of a distraction, but even adults can struggle with passenger distractions. Asking to hold off on conversations, or to not try to get your attention while you’re on a busy road can help minimize potential issues.
  • Emotional distractions: Emotions are nothing to be ashamed of, but if you’re driving and feeling especially angry, hurt, tired, or otherwise wound up, do your best to pull over to the side of the road and wait until your emotions are under better control. It can be hard to concentrate on the road if your eyes can’t focus due to tears, or your mind is elsewhere, so it’s best to simply wait it out until you can fully focus on the road ahead.
  • Eating or drinking while driving: Besides alcohol (which should never be consumed while driving), it can be tempting to eat a snack or have a sip of a drink while you’re driving to your destination. However, these items can easily spill and make a mess, which can cause significant distractions while driving.
    • Try to save your snacking for when you’re parked or have arrived at your destination. If you do need a drink of something, try to have the drink in a storage container that is not likely to leak or spill, such as a cup with a lid and straw. If that is not available to you, then try to save your drink for when you arrive safely at your destination.
  • Texting or calling while driving: Many states have outlawed the use of cell phones while driving; not just for teens with a GDL, but for all drivers. However, teens should really be cognizant of not using their cell phone while driving, as it can easily be a major distraction. It is best to store your phone in the glove compartment until you arrive at your destination, or to turn it off entirely.
  • Other forms of distractions: These can include listening to music or the radio, listening to or coordinating the GPS, having a pet in the car, or doing makeup (or other preening rituals) in the car while driving. All of these examples can cause distraction issues, so be sure to avoid them while driving and focus instead on the road and reaching your destination safely.

Avoid High-Risk Situations

Besides distracted driving, another leading cause of accidents is high-risk situations. The following is a list of high-risk situations that drivers (at any age) should try to avoid:

Impaired driving or driving under the influence (alcohol and/or drugs)

Impaired driving is extremely dangerous, and puts more than your own life at risk — it risks the lives of everyone else on the road with you.

Always avoid driving if you’ve recently had an alcoholic beverage or are under the influence of any drugs or narcotics.

Even prescription medications (such as pain killers or sleep aids) cause impaired driving, so it’s important to be aware of your current state of mind before getting behind the wheel of a car.

Speeding

Speeding is also risky for both yourself and anyone else on the road. If you’re afraid that you’re going to be late to a meeting or class, do your best to leave earlier the next time, and explain your intention and plan to your teacher.

It is much more important to be able to arrive safely than it is to arrive on time.

Driving With Teen Passengers

As mentioned above, passenger distractions can be a major issue for many young drivers. Instead of risking a potential distraction while driving, avoid driving long distances with other teenagers, or be adamant about focusing on the road while you have a passenger.

For teens that are on a GDL, be sure to check your local laws in regards to passenger restrictions.

Nighttime driving

Similar to the above point, driving at night can be restricted for some teenage drivers on a GDL, so be sure to check your local GDL laws.

In general, driving at night can be risky, as noted by the National Safety Council, not only because your site may be impaired or limited, but incidents of people driving under the influence typically occur after dark, as well.

Plus, the chances of being fatigued while driving is higher, and drowsy driving is extremely dangerous.

Driving with Visual Obstructions

It is essential to ensure you can see the road in its entirety while driving, as well as your sides, blind spots, and behind you.

If something is visually obstructed for you, then pull over and assess the situation and fix any issues. Never drive if you are unable to see the road due to weather, a broken hood, or any other obstruction.

Driving Without a Seatbelt

Always drive with your seat-belt fastened, and the seatbelt fastened for all your passengers.

Seat-belts were invented to protect the body during accidents, and they do an excellent job of protecting people when they are used properly, as highlighted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Even if you believe you are a safe driver, not everyone else on the road is attentive and safe. Buckling up can save you from serious harm and potential death in case of an accident.

Avoid Drowsy Driving

As mentioned above, driving at night can lead to drowsy driving, which is extremely dangerous. However, many teenagers live a life of little sleep, which means drowsy driving isn’t just a risk that might happen at night.

As highlighted by the Guardian, sleep quality for teens can be affected by more than hormone fluctuations and late-night study sessions — late-night smartphone use is also leading to unhealthy sleep habits.

Overall, teens (and most adults) need at least 8 hours of sleep, if not more. Any less than that, and they may be drowsy and slightly disoriented due to a lack of sleep.

As a driver, teens should be aware of how they’re feeling mentally and physically and should use that awareness to make informed decisions about whether or not they’re alert enough to drive.

The CDC offers some advice on identifying drowsiness, including these signs:

  • Frequent yawning or blinking;
  • Difficulty remembering the past few miles driven;
  • Missing an exit;
  • Drifting out of your lane, or hitting the rumble strip on the side of the highway/freeway.

Driving while drowsy has also been compared to driving while drunk or otherwise impaired. The mind simply cannot react appropriately and you cannot be aware of your surroundings when you’re drowsy.

As one study found — highlighted by U.S. News — getting less than five hours of sleep is the equivalent of driving under the influence of alcohol. If you’re at all feeling tired or drowsy, it is not worth the risk to drive.

Drive Defensively

Defensive driving, Safe Motorists explains, is the practice of making well-informed decisions and anticipating situations before they happen on the road.

For young drivers, taking a driver’s education course might be their first dive into defensive driving practices, but there are also separate defensive driving courses that vary by state that anyone can take if they want to hone their skills and learn about the local road laws.

As Safe Motorist highlights, most defensive driving courses will cover the following areas:

Traffic Crashes

Many classes will discuss the impact (both financial, emotional, and physical) that crashes can have on individuals and the community. However, these classes will also discuss how to make informed decisions and discuss exercising caution in order to mitigate potential crashes.

Psychological Factors

Emotions can easily distract a driver, so these courses may cover ways in which to calm yourself down or identify road rage in progress on the road

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Prevention and Awareness

Commonly in defensive driving classes, the instructor may spend a significant amount of time explaining the impairment and dangers that alcohol and substance abuse can have on driving.

They may even walk a student through the experience of being drunk behind the wheel in order to help illustrate how much it can affect judgment, sight, and attentiveness.

Crash Dynamics and Prevention

Another topic they may cover is how crashes occur, and how the primary crash (the crashing of a car with another car or object) is only one part of the accident.

The other part is the crash that happens with the person inside the car, as they may hit the windshield, door, or airbag on impact.

These courses will cover the anatomy of crashes, and how they can be avoided by paying attention to your surroundings or keeping an eye out for potential hazards.

Safety Equipment

These courses will cover the importance of the seat belt and other safety devices (such as a car seat), and will explain how to properly utilize them to protect everyone in the car.

Local and State Traffic Laws

Finally, these classes also tend to cover all the local and state traffic laws that drivers may already know, or may not be aware of prior to the class.

This can include such laws as “what to do during a funeral procession” or “speed limit expectations during extreme weather incidents.” Although it might be a refresher for some students, it’s important to cover, regardless.

Obey the Rules of the Road

Finally, for new drivers, the most essential aspect of driving safely is to pay attention to and follow the rules of the road. This includes the speed limit, signs of potentially dangerous road conditions, construction or school zones, and traffic lights or signs.

When you’re first learning to drive, you might learn about these signs from either your parent or a teacher in a driver’s education course. However, remembering and obeying them can be the difference between life and death.

Also ensure that no matter when you use your car, you have your insurance, registration, and drivers license on you just in case you’re pulled over.

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Tips for Parents

For parents who are preparing their teenager for driving, it’s important to have a strategy in place to ensure your teenager learns from the experience and can enjoy the road safely. Below is some advice on how to prepare your young driver for the responsibility of driving.

Have Fun! Bond with Your Child

Learning to drive is an important right of passage, and the last thing you want to do is potentially taint that experience with your child by being angry or overbearing. Instead, allow your child to experience the joys, but also understand the risks of driving.

It can be a difficult balancing act to be both serious and excited, but you and your child can both appreciate the bonding experience that this will provide. Just like when they took their first steps, this is a big milestone for your child!

Talk to Your Teen about These Things Before They Start Driving

Additionally, prior to getting behind the wheel, it can help to have a conversation with your teen beforehand, discussing some of the basics while driving.

Below are some examples of what you could explain to your child as they learn to drive:

The What If’s

A common tactic for teaching new ideas is to ask your teenager “what if” scenarios to help illustrate how best to deal with a difficult situation.

For example, ask them “What if your car tire pops, what should you do?” and listen to their answer. If they’re unsure, you can explain to them the proper way to deal with that situation, and have them take notes.

    • “What if your check engine light comes on?”
    • “What if another driver cuts you off?”
    • “What if the road is covered in snow or icy?”
    • “What if an emergency vehicle is coming down the opposite side of the street as you?”

The Anticipation Zone

An attentive driver is always paying attention to the road around them and keeping an eye out for potential hazards. The “anticipation zone” is the act of anticipating 20 seconds ahead by paying attention to what’s happening further up the road.

To determine how far ahead something is, focus on an object and count how long it takes to get there or past that object. If it’s 20 seconds, then you know how far ahead you should be paying attention.

(Keep in mind, this distance will increase as you drive faster; so, for a person driving 35 mph, the object may not be far, but for someone driving 60 mph, they may need to pay attention or anticipate potential hazards nearly a half mile or more ahead of them on the freeway.)

The Green Light

It’s important to explain to your teenager that a green light doesn’t just mean “go” when the light changes.

There are many potential hazards to look out for, including drivers that run red lights, so be sure to communicate that it’s important to survey the intersection after a light changes before going through.

The Emergency Vehicle

Another important topic is emergency vehicles — both if a fire truck or ambulance is driving by, as well as if the driver is being pulled over by a police officer. Parents should explain to their child how important it is to remain calm and pull over in a safe spot as soon as they see flashing lights.

The Passing Rules

Be sure to explain to your teen the rules of passing other vehicles and the importance of communicating using the car blinker. Also, explain the rules of passing a school bus, a stopped police car, and other unique situations they may face on the road.

The Left Turn

Finally, explaining to your child the importance of checking the road before taking a difficult left turn across traffic can be life-saving.

If they are unsure of how to get across a busy intersection, advise them to avoid the left turn and find another spot to turn (such as at a light with a left turn lane). Also explain to them the importance of checking twice for motorcyclists, cyclists, or pedestrians at all intersections and turns.

Be Calm and Give Simple Instructions

When your child first gets behind the wheel, or any time after that while they have a GDL, be sure to stay calm and give simple instructions so that they don’t get confused or frustrated while driving.

Remember that they need to concentrate on the road and that being frustrated or angry can only cause them to become more distracted.

Model Safe Driving Behavior

Additionally, remember that you are the main point of contact for your child to learn about driving behavior. Be sure to model positive and attentive behavior so that they will pick up on those subtle skills and implement them into their own driving habits.

Encourage Commentary Driving

During the first few test drives with your teenager, ask them to say aloud what they are thinking when they are making certain driving decisions or when they pass certain signs.

This can help you identify potential areas of improvement, knowledge gaps, or help provide them with more context on why a certain maneuver is best for everyone on the road.

Avoid the “8 Danger Zones”

As a parent, you should also communicate to your teen driver the importance of preventing accidents by being aware, avoiding distractions, and properly using the car and seat belt.

As the CDC explains, teen car accidents are almost entirely avoidable, and parents should share with their teen drivers the “eight danger zones” that they may face:

  • Driver inexperience
  • Driving with a teen passenger
  • Nighttime driving
  • Not using a seat belt
  • Distracted driving
  • Drowsy driving
  • Reckless driving
  • Impaired driving

Car Insurance for Teens

Driving deaths and accidents are major concerns for teens, which means their insurance rates can be quite high.

Teenage drivers are often the most expensive drivers to insure, which means parents will have to prepare for an increase in their car insurance bill once their child starts learning how to drive.

Finding the best auto insurance for a teenage driver can be difficult, but discounts and other special offers for teens exist that might be able to bring down the cost. Parents should consider adding their teen to their existing plan, as this will often prove the least expensive option.

However, if that option isn’t viable or available, there are other affordable options to consider.

Cheap Insurance for Teens

According to the research conducted by Expert Insurance Review, the three most affordable car insurance options for teens are:

Geico

Geico is a leader in insurance, and they consistently offer low rates. For teen drivers, specifically, they offer both a “good student” discount, as well as a “driver’s education” discount.

They also have partnered with a handful of student organizations to offer extra discounts to those members. As an extra benefit, Geico has an easy-to-use app that also allows them to store their insurance card virtually so it’s always handy.

Progressive

Similar to Geico, Progressive is a top performing insurance company that offers plenty of discounts for all drivers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLTKvGgTb10

They also have a “good student” discount and a “driver’s education” discount, and offer another discount for teens that are pursuing an education away from home. Plus, they also have an easy-to-use mobile app with an electronic insurance ID card.

Esurance

Similar to the above two, Esurance also offers abundant bundle discounts and a very mobile-friendly app for teen drivers.

They have both a “good student” discount, as well as a “driver’s education” discount, and parents and teens can find a host of other available discounts when first signing up that may help lower the cost even more.

Requirements by State

Parents and teens will need to double check what insurance requirements their state may have in place. Knowing your local requirements can help you ensure you are shopping for and getting quotes for the appropriate insurance and not overpaying for more than you need.

Some states may have very specific laws related to insurance coverage for teens learning how to drive, so it’s important to do some research before a teen pursues driver’s education or their GDL. For example:

  • In Illinois, teen drivers are required to have insurance as soon as they pass the road test for the initial license. They are allowed to pursue a learner’s permit as early as 15 years old.
  • In Kansas, teen drivers are all required to have insurance, even while they’re earning their GDL and before they gain a full license. Teens as young as 15 can pursue a learner’s permit.
  • In Arizona, teens learning to drive and pursuing an instructional permit are not required to get insurance until they pursue a graduated drivers license. After that, they and their parents are required to seek coverage. Teens as young as 15 and a half can pursue a learner’s permit.

Common Questions Teens Ask about Driving

As teens start learning to drive, they may start asking questions about “what if” scenarios or potential areas of concern. Below are some common questions and some responses that parents can provide.

How long does it take to learn to drive?

Each state has a different “learner stage” that lasts for a certain number of months. Additionally, student drivers may be required to meet a specific number of “supervised driving hours” prior to applying for a full license.

These requirements will depend on the state, and you can find your state’s laws and regulations on the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) list of state laws for teen drivers.

What happens if you drive without a license?

Driving without a license can result in a ticket for a misdemeanor violation if a student or teen driver is pulled over by a police officer.

These violations typically result in a fine of anywhere from $100 to $1,000 and may come with the added requirement of community service. In some rare cases, jail time may be required.

It is vital to instill in your teen the importance of always carrying their GDL, learner’s permit, or driver’s license.

Do you need insurance with a learner’s permit?

All cars on the road must be insured. For students that are pursuing a learner’s permit, they may not need to be included on the policy, depending on the state (see above section), but the car itself will need to be insured by the parent providing it.

Can you drive by yourself with a permit?

The answer to this is also dependent on the state you reside in, as well as the level of permit received.

Most states require a minimum number of supervised hours with a parent or guardian when pursuing a learner’s permit, and does not allow other under-age occupants (other than relatives) to be in the car at the same time.

However, after the minimum hours have been reached, if the teen then pursues a GDL, they may be able to drive by themselves with an intermediate permit.

However, other rules may then come into effect, such as not being able to drive at night, not being able to have other teen passengers or other such restrictions that are dependent on the state.

When can you get your license?

Again, the answer to this depends on the state, so you will need to investigate the laws of your area before you can provide an answer. However, as explained by the GHSA (linked above), the most common minimum age for pursuing a license is 16 or 17 years old.

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Additional Resources for Teens and Parents

For further information on teen driving risks, laws, and more, visit these sites:

About Eric Stauffer

Author: Eric StaufferI am a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. My priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best place to get it.