ICBC’s top five tips for teens behind the wheel

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What your teen needs to know to drive smart and safe

July, 2009 – The weather is hot, school is out and now your teenager wants to hit the road – in your car, that is! In 2008, 49,500 teens got their first BC driver’s licence.

Once your teen has passed a knowledge exam and vision test, they are permitted to get behind the wheel – with some restrictions. However, stats show that teens are at a higher risk of being in a crash, with one in five new drivers involved in a crash within the first two years of driving.

Remember your first taste of freedom and the feeling of being invincible? While it’s an exciting time for any teen, ICBC is offering five tips to help you teach your teen how to drive smart and safe:

  1. Set the right example: Driving lessons start much earlier than you may realize. Your children will observe your actions and attitude from a very young age – even when they are still sitting in a car-seat. Kids log a lot of hours as passengers and will easily pick up any bad road safety habits you display. Show them how to drive smart and, remember, most driving slip-ups result from lapses of attention – so stay away from anything that takes your mind from the road, whether it is a cell phone, eating or make-up. When your teen is of an age to start learning how to drive, you will get a copy of ICBC’s Tuning Up for Drivers manual with their learner’s licence. Review it with your teen – it’s a great hands-on manual for new drivers and their supervisors. This is a good time to brush up on your own driving skills and work on any bad habits.
  2. Get in the experts: It’s certainly a good idea to give your teen as much driving experience as possible, so in addition to you teaching them how to drive safely consider giving them the opportunity to take some lessons with a professional driving instructor. Many driving school courses include classroom time and road safety theory. More importantly, a driving school instructor can be objective without the emotion involved in many parent/teen relationships. If you do choose this route, remember to stay involved and discuss what they are learning.
  3. Remember the restrictions: BC’s Graduated Licensing Program (GLP) has been a great success in lowering the new driver crash rate by ensuring that new drivers gain the driving experience they need in a controlled, somewhat lower-risk environment, and then expanding their privileges as they become safer on the roads. As a parent, you should be aware of the restrictions of the GLP program and ensure that your teen sticks to them. Some of the key restrictions of the novice stage are that you always display your green ‘N’ sign on the back of your vehicle when driving it, that you must not drive with any alcohol in your body, and that you are limited to one passenger (immediate family exempt) – unless you are driving with a supervisor 25 years or older that has a valid, full driver’s licence.
  4. Put it in writing: You may want to consider developing a family contract and set of rules that are in line with the GLP restrictions. Go to icbc.com and create your own family contract that sets out your expectations of your teen, the responsibilities you want them to show on the road, as well as the consequences for breaking those rules. By providing specific rules and restrictions, this removes misinterpretation. Like any contract, it should be a two-way deal – as a responsible parent, you could agree to drive your teen home if they’ve been drinking to stop them from even being tempted to drive impaired.
  5. Choose the right vehicle: The type of car your teen learns to drive on can make a big difference. It’s best to learn how to drive on a vehicle that is a manageable size and has good visibility. Stick to an automatic transmission until your teen has mastered the basics. Start thinking about your vehicle needs well before your teen starts driving so that you’ve got the right vehicle in your driveway when they come home with their learner’s licence. The ideal car for a first-time teen driver is one that is easy to drive and decreases the odds of being involved in a crash and suffering an injury.

As a final bonus tip, if you are allowing your teen to get some driving experience by using your car, don’t forget to check that you have the right insurance coverage for that kind of use. If your vehicle is currently rated in an experienced rate class (all drivers in a household with at least 10 years’ driving experience) then the rate class will need to be changed.

For a lot more of these tips, go to www.icbc.com, click on ‘Driver Licensing’, ‘Getting Licensed’, and then ‘For parents of teens learning to drive in B.C.’. Other great resources on icbc.com include our RoadSense video tips and our Online Practical Knowledge test for a learner’s licence.