Talk to teens about driving -- it may be a lifesaver

Mike Rothman
Commissioner, Department of Commerce

The ultimate goal when our kids start driving is to ensure their safety and the safety of others. That starts with establishing expectations. The good news is that by setting boundaries, we are making the roads safer for everyone.

Summer is the deadliest time of year for teenage motor vehicle accidents. If they haven’t yet, parents and their teen drivers should discuss safe driving habits such as always wearing a seatbelt, no texting while driving, and never driving while intoxicated.

Research shows teens whose parents set rules are half as likely to get in an accident, according to the the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Reducing accidents not only saves lives but also saves money through reduced insurance costs.

Inexperience, distracted driving, speeding and drug or alcohol use are major contributors to teen-related crashes. One way parents can help teens become a safer driver is to talk openly about expectations for when they are behind the wheel.

A list of suggestions:

• Set a driving curfew. More than 40 percent of teen auto deaths occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

• Put a limit on the number of passengers allowed in your teen’s car. For teenagers, the relative risk of a fatal crash increases as the number of passengers increases.

• Make the cell phone off-limits while driving. Talking and texting on a cell phone can double the likelihood of an accident.

• Encourage your teen to exercise his or her rights as a passenger. Only 44 percent of teens say they would speak up if someone were driving in a way that scared them.

Traffic tickets and accidents often cause insurance premiums to increase.  These safety measures can help parents and teens save money on auto insurance:

• Encourage teen drivers to keep his or her driving records free of accidents and moving violations for at least three years. Many companies grant discounts to “safe drivers.”

• Enroll new drivers in a defensive driving course. Some companies offer discounts for completion.

• Some companies may offer driver awareness programs, either online or with a smartphone app for young drivers. Ask your insurance agent or company if there is a discount for using these programs.

• Encourage teen drivers to keep their grades up. Many insurance companies offer discounts or preferred rates for teens at particular GPA levels.

• Ask your insurance company about an “accident forgiveness” clause that guarantees premiums will not increase after one minor accident.

• Consider a higher deductible and only allowing the teen to drive the family’s oldest, least expensive car. The type of vehicle also will affect the policy premium. SUVs, convertibles and performance vehicles typically cost more to insure than other cars.

While all accidents are not preventable, by setting rules and reminding each other of safe driving practices, both parents and teens can create a safer driving environment for all Minnesotans this summer.

For more teen driving tips and resources, contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce by visiting the Commerce Department website. Parents and teens can also visit to download the Teen Driving Contract and other helpful documents, including a downloadable accident checklist.


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