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5 Safe Driving Tips for Teens in Colorado

January 29, 2024

safe driving tips for teens

One of my colleagues has a 14-year-old daughter who is about to take her driving permit test. As with most parents, this mom has huge trepidations. She says that her daughter is a very responsible kid with a good combination of common sense and caution. But… it’s a car! And she’ll be at the mercy of every other driver on the road! So, like many other parents, she’s been thinking a LOT about how to prepare her daughter properly for her time behind the wheel, and what safe driving tips for teens would help that conversation.

Because I’ve been exposed to her journey and my own, I thought I’d write about some of the steps you can take to prepare your teenager to drive, and our overall safe driving tips for teens.

1. Driving School for Teens

My colleague says that, back when she was in high school, driving school (a.k.a. “Driver’s Ed”) was more like an episode of “Scared Straight” followed by someone tossing her the keys. She remembers sitting in a dark room in her high school watching scary movies about car accidents. Then she was deemed prepared and sent out on the road! (Luckily, she grew up on a farm so she learned to drive stick shift before she was 12.)

Today, driving schools for teens are much more sophisticated. And they are mandatory! In Colorado, teen drivers seeking a permit must show proof that they attended a 30-hour driver’s training program; then they have to pass a written examination.

The materials covered in these courses include everything from car parts to car laws. As a parent myself, I’m most interested in the programs that also offer the “drunk goggles” experience for teens. When you put these goggles on, they disorient you in ways that are similar to being under the influence of alcohol. Teens are asked to do simple tasks with the goggles on and they learn very quickly how impaired their abilities are.

The parents are shocked at how much they’ve forgotten (or ignored habitually) from the days when they were learning to drive.

2. Do as I Do: Modeling Good Behavior When Driving Your Teen

My colleague tells me that, since her daughter took the 30 hours of training, she’s been harping on everything that her dad and mom do wrong behind the wheel. These safe driving tips for teens … aren’t just for teens! It’s been an eye opener for everyone involved. The parents are shocked at how much they’ve forgotten (or ignored habitually) from the days when they were learning to drive. The daughter screams things like, “How have I survived this long with you two driving me around?!”

You know that old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do?” That does not work with driving. If you want your teenager to practice good driving habits, you need to do what you want them to do. For example: put down the phone! Do you want your kid answering calls and texts behind the wheel? Of course not. So you need to stop doing it, too. Make a habit of turning the phone’s sound off and putting it in the glove box when you’re in the car.

We’ve all experienced those parenting moments when we discover that our kids are little mocking birds, soaking up everything we say or do and repeating it to others. (Woe the day my kid’s teacher asked me about a certain word she heard!) If you want kids to practice safe driving habits, you have to practice them, too.

3. Honest Conversations about Safe Driving

Hopefully by now, you’ve had a few honest moments with your teenager about things like social media, what to do at parties that get out of control, and the birds and the bees. You need to have a similarly honest conversation about driving. Yes, while they have a permit, their freedom is relatively limited. They can’t pile a bunch of teens in the car and go to the mall by themselves. But now is the time to start talking about tough decisions, like the types of friends who might be too distracting in a car, what to do if their friends refuse to buckle up, how to handle it if they’re getting pressured to drive unsafely, and more.

Start the conversation about safe driving tips for teens now so that it’s wide open when the permit turns into a license!

4. Safe Driving Tips for Teens = Positive Conversation

Parent Contract for Teen Drivers

I’m not sure if you’ve seen the blog I wrote about the teen/parent driving contract. If not, check it out now! Before you hand the keys over to your teen driver, you need to have a heart-to-heart about your expectations and the consequences your teen will face for ignoring them. This does not have to be a “put the hammer down” conversation. The teen-driver contract is meant to inspire positive conversations, help you and your teen to agree on consequences, and reward good behavior.

5. Get Dirty

My friend is doing something somewhat unorthodox with her daughter that I really like: she’s making her change one of the car’s tires. Apparently, my colleague’s mom did this to her (for her?) when she was learning to drive. She told me:

“My mom sat in the driveway with a cup of coffee and didn’t get up once to help me! She just sat there telling me what to do and giggling.”

So, this legacy is being passed down another generation and it makes a lot of sense! You want your kid to be able to troubleshoot car maintenance issues on his or her own. Otherwise, the stress of a problem may lead to bad decision-making. The daughter is also going to learn how to use jumper cables, check the oil, add wiper fluid, and many other solutions to minor car problems.

Let’s face it. Putting your child behind the wheel of a car is a terrifying prospect for most parents. Be proactive in your conversations and actions, helping your teen to make good choices from the first time he or she hits the accelerator.

Call me if you have any questions about this article or further insights for parents of teen drivers.

Related articles:

Model Good Driving Behavior – Every time you do something you know you shouldn’t do, imagine your child in the driver’s seat doing it, too.

Family Road Trips – One impatient pass on a blind turn and you’re a headline.

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