Category: Your New Driver checklist

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 beginners’ 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. Speeding and Driving Aggressively

New drivers have not yet learned to recognize and respond to dangerous situations, so they tend to speed and to tailgate.1

  • Tip: Encourage your teen to leave 16 car lengths (243 feet) of space between himself or herself and the car in front when driving 55 mph.2

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,3 a tiered system that grants a new driver a learner’s permit, before proceeding to a provisional license and finally to a full license. This process lets a teen driver build up knowledge of the road and how to react to the unexpected.

  • Tip: Make sure your child reviews your state’s restrictions – and allowances – as he or she reaches each step of the graduated licensing process.

3. Overconfidence

More than half (57 percent) of teens think that they drive as well as their parent or guardian.4 At the same time, 72 percent have expressed they feel unsafe on the road.4

  • Tip: Remind your young driver that they are still learning. Their driving style should be assertive, not aggressive.

4. Texting or Talking on Phone

Cellphones are distracting whether your teen is behind the wheel or not. Add inexperience and you can understand how cellphone use causes 12 percent of motor vehicle accidents involving teens.5

  • Tip: Suggest that your teen keep his or her 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 should not be allowed until your child has more experience.

5. Not Wearing Seat Belts

Although seat belt usage across the country is on the rise – up to 90.1 percent in 2016 from 88.5 percent in 20156 – teenagers are the least likely demographic to buckle up.7 Only about 61 percent of teens said they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else.8

  • Tip: Explain the importance of a seat belt in a collision. In 2015, nearly half of all fatalities from motor vehicle crashes involved people who didn’t buckle up.6

6. Too Many Passengers

Friends in the car are a huge distraction for your teen driver, and can change the way he or she drives. A teen with just one passenger is two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in potentially risky behaviors than is a teen driving alone.9 This likelihood triples with more than one passenger.9

  • 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.


Observing your teen’s habits behind the wheel is one way you’ll get used to your child driving. Another way? Learn how your auto insurance may be impacted.


  • Background On: Teen Drivers, Insurance Information Institute, 2018.
  • Safe Driving Distance Fact Sheet: What Is a Safe Following Distance?, Safelite, 2015.
  • Highway Loss Data Institute, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Teenagers, 2017.
  • New Survey Suggests Over Half of Teen Drivers May Be Overconfident in Their Driving Skills, PR Newswire, 2017.
  • Distraction and Teen Crashes: Even Worse Than We Thought, AAA, 2015.
  • Seat Belt Use in 2016 – Overall Results, National Highway Traffic Safety administration, 2016.
  • Teen Drivers: Get the Facts, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016.
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 2015 YRBS Data User’s Guide, June 2016.
  • Teen Driving, National Highway Traffic Safety administration, 2018.

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