6 Common Mistakes Teen Drivers Make
Learn to recognize them to help your child become safer on the road.
When your teen takes the wheel, their inexperience can be a problem – for themselves, their passengers and others on the road. Fortunately, most of their beginner’s mistakes can be prevented. Here are some of the most frequent errors teen drivers make, and how you can instill good behaviors in your child.
1. Driving too closely to other cars
New drivers have not yet learned to recognize and respond to dangerous situations, so they tend to speed and tailgate.1
Tip: Teach your teen the three-second rule. This means that when a car passes at any given point, you should be able to count to at least three before you cross the same point.2 Although this can be a helpful measure, this is just the minimum safe distance between cars. More space is always better when possible.
2. Tunnel vision
New drivers often are so focused on just one aspect of the road, such as staying in the correct lane, that they miss the others, such as cars merging in front of them, increasing their risk of an accident. All 50 states require some elements of graduated licensing, a tiered system that grants a new driver a learner’s permit, before proceeding to a provisional license and finally to a full license.3 This process lets a teen driver build up knowledge of the road and how to react to the unexpected.
Tip: Make sure you and your child review your state’s restrictions – and allowances – as they reach each step of the graduated licensing process. Each step of the graduated license process has various driving limitations, such as curfews, driving with another licensed adult, banning other teen passengers and more depending on your state. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety page on teenage drivers provides details on the guidelines for each state.
3. Distracted driving
Distracted driving isn’t limited to texting. There are numerous ways one can get distracted while behind the wheel. Something as simple as a conversation with someone else in the vehicle, looking at passing landmarks, or adjusting the AC or radio are all things that can take your eyes off the road. A less experienced teen driver may more easily fall victim to these distractions.
Tip: Suggest that your teen keep their mobile device turned off, in the glove compartment or locked in a dashboard holder out of reach. Hands-free communication can also take attention from the road and perhaps shouldn’t be allowed until your child has more experience.
4. Not wearing seat belts
Although seat belt usage across the country is on the rise – up to 90.4% in 20214 – teenage drivers are the least likely demographic to buckle up.5 Fourty-three percent of teens said they didn’t always wear seat belts when riding with someone else.5
Tip: Explain the importance of a seat belt in a collision. In 2020, over half of all teen driver fatalities from motor vehicle crashes involved people who didn’t buckle up.5
5. Too many passengers
Friends in the car are a huge distraction for your teen driver, and can change the way they drive. A teen with just one passenger is two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in potentially risky behaviors than a teen driving alone.6 This likelihood triples with more than one passenger.6
Tip: While the number of allowed passengers may change throughout the graduated licensing process, as a parent or guardian, you can set your own boundaries and expectations in addition to these rules.
6. Driving under the influence
While teenagers shouldn’t be drinking alcohol on or off the road, drinking any amount of alcohol before driving increases the crash risk among teen drivers.5
Tip: Maintaining and enforcing minimum legal drinking age laws and zero tolerance laws for drivers under age 21 is recommended to help prevent drinking and driving among young drivers.5
Amica partners with Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) to help the ongoing effort to protect youth and make a safer future for tomorrow’s drivers. MADD’s Power of You(th)© program features interactive presentations delivered by certified facilitators to help youth explore the real, short- and long-term impacts of drinking underage, including how it can damage brain development, and the long-lasting social consequences. Click here to learn more.
As a parent, you might be a little worried about your teenager getting behind the wheel. However, there are a few things within your control to make it a smooth transition.
Educate your teen.
While not every state requires driver’s education classes, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t require them for your own children. Drivers who have not taken a driver’s education course are 75% more likely to get a traffic ticket and 16% more likely to have an accident.7 If a driver’s education course isn’t in the cards, there are many online resources to help educate your teenage driver, such as the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Teen Driver and Passenger Safety, MADD and more.
Be a good role model.
Like most things in life, your kids are likely to pick up habits from their parents. If they see you looking at your phone while driving, they may be more inclined to do the same. If you avoid common driving mistakes and steer clear of distractions, drive the speed limit and don’t drive under the influence, they’ll be more likely to follow suit when it’s their turn to take the driver’s seat.
1 Background On: Teen Drivers, Insurance Information Institute, 2021.
2 What is a Safe Following Distance?, DriversEd.com, 2021.
3 Highway Loss Data Institute, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Teenagers, 2022.
4 Seat Belts, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2023.
5 Teen Drivers: Get the Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
6 Teen Driving, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2018.
7 Does Taking A Driver’s Ed Course Reduce Car Crashes?, iDriveSafely, 2022.