Usually, being a helicopter parent is frowned upon. Kid’s need privacy and independence, right? There is one exception to this though.

Teenage driving.

When it comes to teenage driving, most parents aren’t worried enough.

Nichole Morris, a researcher with Human FIRST Laboratory says that “the most dangerous two years of your life are between 16 and 17 and the reason for that is driving”. For this age group, motor vehicles account for more deaths that suicide, cancer, and other accidents according to Dr. Morris. Our roads have gotten safer, cars have gotten safer, but teen drivers have not.

According to AAA, just under one million teenage drivers were involved in accidents in 2013 alone. This resulted in 373,645 injuries and nearly 3,000 deaths. The CDC says that on average, 6 teens die each day from motor vehicle injuries.

Charlie Klauer, a research scientist at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says that the real numbers may actually be higher since many accidents are unreported Dr. Klauer says “we believe 1 in 4 teens is going to be in a crash in their first 6 months of driving”.

How do we address this issue? There is no easy answer, especially in a world where technology is so prevalent. When asked what parents should be most worried about, Dr. Morris said, “other passengers”.


Dr. Morris says that adding just one nonfamily passenger to the car increases the rate of teenager driver crashes by 44% and adding a second passenger doubles that rate. Three or more passengers causes the rate to quadruple.

In most states, there are restrictions on the number and type of passengers during the early phase of a driver’s license. Most parents, however, do not enforce the rule after this time period.

Dr. Morris says that parents should make this a rule and continue to enforce it, even after the state restriction ends. She believes that passengers are a bigger threat than cell phones. Friends can encourage the driver to speed or participate in other dangerous behavior.

Cell Phones

Cell phones are still a very big problem. Turning off notifications may help. During her studies, Dr. Klauer has shown that teenagers continue to text, talk, and check social media while driving even when they knew they were being watched and recorded.

Keeping the cell phone in a bag or pocket doesn’t help either. The notifications are too hard to resist. She suggests turning off all notifications before you start the car, so that you won’t be tempted to check the phone.

Two Second Rule

If your teen must use a cell phone for navigation, it needs to be in a dock, on the dashboard at eye level. Not in the cupholder, their lap, or the passenger seat. This could cause the teen to take their eyes away from the road for longer than 2 seconds and this is extremely dangerous.

Road Conditions

While technology has introduced new threats to driver safety, the old ones are still there. Drinking and driving, driving at night or in bad weather are all dangerous situations. Safety experts say that driving at night is much more dangerous than driving during the day and the Transportation Department says that in 2013 almost one third of teenage drivers killed in auto accidents had been drinking.

AAA recommends that teens not be allowed to drive between 9pm and 5am until they have had a license for at lest 6 months, longer if the parents feel it is necessary. We also encourage you to speak to your teens about the dangers of drinking and driving and encourage them to call you and ask for a safe ride, rather than risk a crash.

Vehicle Safety Features

Teenage driver deaths have been declining in recent years. Specialists agree that this is because of improved safety features on roads and in vehicles though, not due to improved teenage drivers. Automated breaks, better airbags, lane departure warnings and forward collision warning systems have definitely helped. Despite the cost, parents should consider the benefits of getting as many of these safety features as possible

Get Involved

The researchers truly believe that parents are not doing enough to supervise their teenage drivers. Studies have shown that chances of crashing are lower when the parent is involved in the learning process.

Ask your teen questions, give them opportunities to drive on different types of roads, in different conditions and most importantly, supervise them. It is ok to trust your teen, but if you aren’t involved and aware of their behavior, they are probably not driving as safely as they should.

Bottom Line

We encourage you to be a helicopter parent during these years. Pay attention, be aware, get involved, and talk to your teen about the risks associated with driving. It may help keep them alive.