Keeping Teens Safe Behind The Wheel

We discuss tips to help encourage safety by teens when driving.

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The Boomerater™ Report, our weekly collaboration with online baby boomer resource Boomerater, this week explores how you can help your teens to be safe, responsible drivers.

[ Take a Road Test of Your Driving Skills.] Here is the question from a Boomerater member: “My 17-year-old son is about to get his driver's license. He is responsible and I believe he will be a good, conscientious driver. But I am naturally concerned about him driving on his own or being a passenger with other teen drivers. Anyone have ideas about how to help a new driver stay as safe as possible?”

Explain the financial consequences. There was a story in the news a year or so ago concerning “The Meanest Mother on the Planet”. A mom referred to herself in this way due to her decision to take away her 19-year-old son’s car, three weeks after giving it to him, because she found alcohol under the seat. When she and her husband purchased the car for their son she had specified that the car doors always be locked, and that there would be no alcohol.

She passed by the car one day, in the driveway at home. The doors weren’t locked and she found alcohol. She ran an ad to sell the car explaining why she was selling it and explained how very “uncool” she was being.

I took a different approach to making my son responsible. When he turned 16, I bought him a car. I wasn’t naïve enough to think that he and his friends wouldn’t find access to alcohol if they wanted it. And even though he had always been a good boy he was still a boy. I knew there would be times that his friends or the simple foolishness of youth would overcome his better judgment.

So I put a financial spin on it. I paid for the car, but the expense of the insurance was his. During the telephone call to my insurance agent when I got the rates for a 16-year-old male, I also got rates for that same driver with a speeding ticket, a wreck, and a DUI. I organized them into a small table (below) and presented the information to my son. In addition to my sincere threat to his well-being if he EVER got behind the wheel drunk, we discussed how the cost of any additional insurance was prohibitively expensive–he just didn’t have the earning capacity–and who wants to spend their hard-earned money that way to begin with? 16-year-old male good-student discount: $554*

Speeding Ticket: $704
Wreck: $776
DUI: $1,662** *Prices are based on six-month premiums

**Attorney’s fees, towing, and bail excluded Our discussion happened more than six years ago. And guess what? My son has a clean driving record. It was also a valuable lesson in the consequences of his actions and has helped him correlate financial aspects into decisions that he makes. Hopefully, this thought process should serve him well all of his life! This information was provided by Celeste Friend, a featured financial advisor in Boomerater’s financial advisor directory.

No cell phone use or texting while driving. Another Boomerater member wrote: New Jersey has recently made teenage driving laws stricter. Probationary drivers (those with their licenses, but in the first year) are limited to having one other passenger (including family members) in the car and the new curfew is 11 p.m. I think we should focus on much more distracting behavior – using cell phones and texting. While illegal in most states, teens (and older drivers) still drop whatever they are doing to answer a call or text back. According to SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, instant and text messaging while driving leads the list as the biggest distraction while driving, but 47 percent of the 900 teens in the study admitted texting while driving.

I find this to be much more disturbing than having my daughter drive home at 11:30 from a movie. In 2005, a 17-year-old Colorado boy found this out the hard way when he struck and killed a bicyclist while answering a text message. The Institute for Highway Safety in Virginia found that people using a cell phone while driving were four times more likely to get into an accident. And they found they were 23 times more likely while texting. My edict is no cell phone or texting unless you are in a true emergency situation. And the #1 rule for all parents should be, “If you drink or are with someone drinking, do NOT drive. Call us and we will pick you up with NO questions asked and NO punishment. Your safety is our first concern.”

[See Are Seniors Being Targeted as Bad Drivers?]

Read other member tips on helping your teens to be safe, responsible drivers on Boomerater.

Boomerater is an online resource for baby boomers, with local directories to help you find everything from an Atlanta financial advisor to Texas assisted living. The site also contains forums where boomers can post questions and swap first-hand experiences. If there are questions on your mind that you would like answered by other people who have faced similar situations, or you have advice of your own to share, go to and participate in the forums. Say that The Best Life sent you.

[ Why Roads Are Becoming a Friendlier Place for Older Drivers.]