Parents Play a Crucial Role in Teen Driver Safety, but Could Technology Play a Part Too?

Driving schools are a great idea for young drivers. They teach teens the skills needed to be a safe and responsible driver. There are usually financial perks as well; typically, after successfully completing an approved driver’s training course, new drivers are eligible for an auto insurance discount for up to three years. Often, these auto insurance savings are more than the cost of the course itself, so from many standpoints, driver training is well worth the investment.

However, depending on where you live, teens enrolled in a driver training program may only receive 10 to 15 hours of in-vehicle practice with a professional instructor. Although in-vehicle practice with a professional is invaluable, most people would agree that 10 to 15 hours of practice is not nearly enough time to hone the skills required to manoeuvre a vehicle that easily weighs 1,300 kilograms or more. The rest of the practice time (as well as many of the teachable moments) therefore, is left to the parents to navigate.

As your teen’s co-pilot, there is a lot you can do to help them appreciate the responsibility that comes with driving, gain the experience they need, and learn how to make good decisions when behind the wheel. And in some instances, technology can be used as a coaching tool as well.

Review the driver’s handbook: To ensure the tips and advice you’re giving is consistent with the instruction your teen driver is learning, review the driver’s handbook before going out together for the first time. Staying true to what your teen driver is studying will help minimize confusion and aid in the learning process.

Practice makes perfect: Set aside time each week to allow your teen to practice driving. Teens Learn to Drive, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating teens about the risks of dangerous driving, suggests that teens need at least 100 hours of practice driving in the first year. It may sound like a lot, but really, it boils down to about two hours per week.

Talk openly about high risk behaviours: While practicing how to parallel park and navigating intersections is time well spent, so is having an open dialogue about high risk behaviours like speeding, distracted driving, and driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. According to Parachute Canada (the people behind National Teen Driver Safety Week), young people make up just 12 per cent of licensed drivers, yet they account for approximately one fifth of all road-related injuries and fatalities:

  • Speeding is a factor in one third of teen driver deaths.
  • Distracted driving is a factor in 15-19 per cent of all fatal crashes involving teen drivers.
  • 21 per cent of teens have driven within one hour of using drugs.

Also, be mindful that your young driver is watching what you do when behind the wheel. Drive the way you want to see your teen drive.

Can automotive technology help you teach your teen safe driving skills?

Once your teen driver holds a licence that permits them to drive without your supervision (or that of another eligible driver), a parent-teen driving agreement is a popular tactic parents can employ. This agreement puts the rules for driving the family car in writing, sets expectations and limits, and usually outlines the consequences for breaking the rules. However, in addition to an "old school" parent-teen driver agreement, many parents are turning to technology to help. For example, some new vehicles allow you to enable features that lets you limit music volume, set the maximum speed the vehicle can go, mute the audio system until seat belts are buckled, and prevent the disabling of certain safety features. Some even report back when safety features like forward collision avoidance systems are triggered. And, if your car is not equipped with these features, there are also apps available that promote safe driving behaviours.

Technology, of course, cannot replace your coaching, but it can be a means to keeping the dialogue going about safe driving practices.

Auto insurance with a teen driver

Most insurance companies don’t require drivers with a learner’s permit to be listed on a car insurance policy. A learner’s permit is typically a highly restrictive licence with many conditions, one of which is that the driver must always have a fully licensed supervising driver alongside them. So while you should let your insurer know that your teen has received their learner’s permit, your premiums will likely be unaffected. This will change however, once your teen passes their road test and can take to the roads without a supervising driver.

When your teen is permitted to go it alone, it’s time to add your teen driver to your policy. It’s at this time as well, when it’s time to shop around for the best car insurance rate possible. Some insurers are more teen-friendly than others, and if you have a new driver in your household it’s worth checking to see if another insurer will give you a better rate.

While shopping around, you might also want to consider a usage-based insurance (UBI) program. With the use of a device that plugs into your car, indicators of how the vehicle is driven are monitored: distance driven, frequency, and habits such as how often you brake hard, turn sharply or if you regularly speed are noted. Many programs offer a five per cent rate reduction just for signing up, with additional premium decreases down the road. And, signing up to a UBI program cannot make your insurance rates go up.

Although not all insurers offer a UBI program, at you can compare rates from providers that carry UBI policies. It could help keep your premiums in check with a new driver in the house.