Safe Driving Tips: For teen drivers, car selection and safety tips can provide protection

Getting a driver’s license is an important milestone for both teens and parents, but the two may have different opinions when it comes to selecting the ideal car. Although “fun” and “stylish” may be key features for teens, AAA Kansas understands that most parents are concerned with safety.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens, resulting in thousands of fatalities and many more severe injuries each year. The time between Memorial Day and Labor Day — referred to as the “100 Deadliest Days” — is particularly dangerous for teen drivers. During the 100 Deadliest Days period in 2017 in Kansas, there were 2,249 motor vehicle crashes involving a driver ages 14 to 18, resulting in 14 fatalities and 882 injuries.

AAA Kansas says concerned parents can help protect their teens, who are statistically the riskiest drivers on the road, by selecting a safe car, as well as talking to their teens about driving risks and the rules related to their driving privileges.

“A teen driver’s safety is a team effort,” said Alex Greig, insurance manager for AAA Kansas. “While teens need to understand their responsibilities behind the wheel, parents should understand their roles in ensuring that teens are driving safe vehicles.”

Teen Car Selection Tips

Steer away from vehicles that encourage reckless driving. Teen drivers lack road experience. Sports cars ­— and other high-performance vehicles with a lot of horsepower — may encourage speeding and unsafe driving.

Pick a vehicle with the right safety features. Teens should drive vehicles that offer sufficient protection in case of a crash. New cars are likely to be equipped with the latest safety gear, but if you’re considering an older car, check for features such as anti-lock brakes, air bags and electronic stability control.

Don’t let your teen drive an unstable vehicle. Sport utility vehicles, especially smaller ones, tend to be less stable than cars because of their higher centers of gravity. Rapid steering maneuvers — such as when a driver over-corrects to avoid an obstacle — can cause rollover accidents in less stable vehicles. A car with a lower center of gravity has a better chance of safely managing an emergency situation.

Check safety ratings of vehicles. Before you buy, check the online safety ratings of the cars you are considering for your teen.

Teaching Teens Safe Driving

Learning to drive can be stressful — for teens and parents. Teenagers have the highest crash rate of all drivers. Parents can ease their anxiety and protect their kids by getting actively involved in the learning process.

“Talking frequently about driving safety, creating a driving agreement, practicing driving together and leading by example can make a huge difference in helping your teen drive safer — especially when you’re not in the car,” Greig said.

Talk about driving safety early and often. Start by teaching your kids what kinds of driving behaviors are risky:

• Speeding — Discuss the importance of adhering to posted speed limits and knowing when to slow down for bad road or weather conditions.

• Nighttime driving — 36 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities involving teen drivers occurred between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. One in 10 of all motor vehicle nighttime crash fatalities involved a teen driver.

• Distraction — An AAA study found that interacting with passengers and cell phones are frequent distractions for teen drivers.

• Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs – Make sure your teen understands that impaired driving should never be an option.

• Poor visual scanning — Talk to your young driver about the importance of staying alert and constantly scanning the road for hazards.

Lay out the rules of the road. Research shows that teens report engaging in less risky behavior when there is a formal agreement to establish driving boundaries. Visit for a sample agreement and other information to help parents and teens navigate the learning-to-drive process.

Prepare with practice

Plan to log at least 100 hours of driving practice with your teen before letting them drive solo. Expose them to different situations while driving together — night and day, freeways and gravel roads, sunny days and wet weather — to increase their experience.

The Kansas Graduated Driver’s License rules provide a detailed process for rules and expectations of new drivers, based on age and experience. Information on the Graduated Driver’s License process is available at

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