Stressing Safety for Teens Behind the Wheel

By Claire Vath

SWEET 16. Most teenagers can’t wait to reach that birthday for one reason: a driver’s license.

But with that milestone comes a sobering statistic: Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Summer is an especially dangerous time of year for teenage drivers. Typically, more teens are behind the wheel, taking unfamiliar routes, carrying friends and staying out later. Those factors, combined with the usual risks of driving, make the months between Memorial Day and Labor Day the most deadly for teen drivers, according to the National Safety Council.

Before you hand over the keys, here are some recommendations to help your new driver get to and from their destination safely.

  1. Set an example. Have every passenger buckle up. Put your cellphone away, even at red lights. Drive the speed limit, and try to minimize distractions.
  2. Find a safe vehicle. Check the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s list of the safest used cars for teens at Vehicles — like Toyota Prius, Kia Sorento and Chevrolet Malibu — earn spots by doing well in crash rating tests.
  3. Monitor and coach. Use USAA’s Automatic License+™, a free program designed to help teens build safe skills behind the wheel. The program uses a free adapter to collect driving data, which can be viewed on a smartphone app so you can encourage good driving habits and discuss areas that need improvement. It’s accessible at
  4. Talk about texting. Ask your teen to read and sign the It Can Wait texting pledge, at “It’s a great way for parents and teens to start the conversation about safe driving,” says Shayna Dickson, a lead programs underwriter for USAA.
  5. Practice a lot. Ride with your teen often, and consider a defensive driving course, which may qualify you for insurance discounts. Visit for more discounts, including one for good students.
Print the USAA Parent and Teen Safe Driving Agreement.

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The Automatic Device utilized in the License+ program is manufactured by Automatic®. USAA is offering the License+ program to qualified members on a voluntary basis and at no cost to eligible members with a driver aged 15 to 19 listed on their USAA auto policy. USAA is not responsible for the actions of Automatic. Limit one per driver who meets the eligibility criteria. Offer may be canceled at any time. Other restrictions may apply. Offer details available on Device cannot be sold. USAA is not responsible for any actions resulting from use of the device and program. Every member enrolled in the program receives an Automatic connected car adapter that plugs into a vehicle’s onboard diagnostic port. Automatic evaluates driving data in order to score and improve the teen’s driving skills. The information received through the adapter powers the License+ program and makes a variety of features available. 

Tags - Auto, Family, Insurance


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