Safe Driving Tips for Teens in a Digital Age | Innova

Just twenty or so years ago, it would have been hard to imagine a future in which you’re constantly connected to the world around you, and just about anything you’d ever want to know is literally at your fingertips. In fact, you might be reading this very article on a smartphone. It’s a great time to be alive, for sure, but that smartphone presents a serious temptation – and a serious risk – to drivers young and old.

It’s an even bigger risk for young drivers, though. Today’s teens grew up in this new, connected reality, and most don’t know what it’s like to go through life without tapping a screen, refreshing their feed, or typing up a status update constantly. Combine that with an overall lack of experience, and you’ve got a sure-fire recipe for disaster behind the wheel.

We’re not trying to sound like typical cranky curmudgeons, here. We’re not going to tell you that phones are bad or anything like that. Instead, our aim is to offer advice for how you can talk to your kids about distracted driving, set some ground rules, and even use some new technology to your advantage. Technology can help us – or hurt us. With any luck, you can apply the knowledge gained here to help guide younger drivers that you know and love out of harm’s way.


How Tech Contributes to Distracted Driving

In-car entertainment has been around for far longer than you might think. Radios, of course, have been a mainstay in automobiles for nearly a century. The 1960s brought us four-track and eight-track cartridges, which allowed us to pick our own music for the first time. From there, we went to cassettes, then CDs, and now, with the advent of smartphones, audio streaming.

Audio streaming is a great technology – no more fumbling with tapes or CDs. However, having so much music at your fingertips means you might spend a little more time than you think you are thumbing through streaming apps, trying to find that perfect song or playlist. Combine that with the temptation to read text messages or check social media, and you may find yourself taking your eyes off the road for far longer than you think you have.

Of course, the screens in our pockets aren’t the only ones we have to worry about. Now, most cars come equipped with large touchscreen infotainment systems, fresh off the showroom floor. Many of these systems have downloadable apps that can do anything from booking service appointments to ordering pizza.

This technology makes life easier, but it’s also very dangerous when used inappropriately. Distracted driving claimed 3,142 lives in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). All it takes is a few seconds of inattention to cause a potentially deadly accident – and, unlike your favorite mobile game, there are no do-overs. The stakes are much, much higher.


How More Tech May Be the Answer

Not all in-car tech hurts us. Recent advances in technology can actually make us safer on the road. In fact, some of this new technology can actually help distracted drivers make it home safely. Some manufacturers, like Mercedes-Benz, have tech that monitors the driver’s alertness to make sure they are paying attention to the road, and observes if they are too fatigued to continue the journey.

Much of this tech is available on far less exotic cars, though. Just about any new car today can be ordered with high-tech safety features such as adaptive headlights, automatic emergency braking, and forward collision warnings. You’ve also got other features like backup cameras, GPS, and hands-free controls that are standard on many cars. Some cars even make use of pioneering autonomous technology.

This new wave of technology can help us even when we aren’t driving. Most mechanics will agree that cars are more complex than ever. However, some of that complexity makes maintenance and repair easier for the DIY home mechanic. Now, when something is wrong, it will tell you with a dashboard light. Before you even pop the hood open to investigate, you can get all of the information you need from the driver’s seat by locating your car’s on board diagnostics (OBD) port.

Once the port has been located, it’s as simple as plugging in a diagnostic tool and reading the error codes stored on your car’s computer. From there, you can easily find the right course of action to repair your car again. Today’s complicated cars may seem daunting for the home mechanic, but since your car can actually tell you exactly what’s wrong, it’s far easier to fix problems than ever before.

 When your teen’s car breaks down, working on finding the problem and fixing it together could be a great bonding activity. It will also teach your teen responsibility, problem solving skills, and even instill a sense of pride. The next time your car’s “Check Engine” light comes on, don’t panic, and send it to the dealer immediately. Instead, consider trying to find the solution yourself. Who knows, you might even have a bit of fun while you’re at it.


Setting Up Ground Rules for Teen Drivers

 We were all teenagers once, with a fresh driver’s license and a new sense of independence. However, we can all agree that we probably didn’t make the best decisions back when we were that age. After all, we were still kids. In this age of heightened driving distraction, increased temptation from tech, and larger and more powerful cars, it’s important to sit down with your teen driver and set some ground rules. Here are some that we suggest:

  1. Absolutely no texting and driving. If you need to call or text someone, pull over and stop the car. Obviously, social media is off-limits, too.
  2. Set your destinations and music up before you go. Once you’re all set up, stick the phone in the glovebox or have a trusted friend and co-pilot handle navigation and DJ duties.
  3. Keep your eyes on the road at all times. It’s important to check your instruments to make sure you aren’t speeding, or you aren’t at risk of running out of gas, but a quick glance is sufficient to glean the information you need.
  4. Don’t stay out late. New drivers lack experience with night driving, so it’s a good idea to set a curfew.
  5. Stay alert and don’t drive intoxicated. If you’re too tired to drive, grab a ride and don’t take the risk. Teen drinking and drug use is a whole separate topic, but it should be obvious – don’t get behind the wheel if you aren’t 100%.
  6. Only one friend in the car at a time. Not every distraction is technology-based – some distractions live, breathe, talk, and laugh. Let’s keep it that way by limiting the number of passengers in your teen’s car.
  7. Keep your car clean and in good condition. Teens may seem like they hate responsibility, but structure is healthy, and making your child responsible for cleaning and maintaining their car can build a sense of pride and ownership. Hopefully this will influence them to make good decisions – and it will also keep an empty soda bottle from getting stuck under the brake pedal when they really need to use it.
  8. Maintain your vehicle. Like we said above, making your teen responsible for their car’s condition can instill a sense of pride. Plus, working on their car together can be a fun bonding activity, and give you a chance to pass down your DIY skills. Your teen will thank you one day. Maybe.
  9. Always wear your seat belt. This one is pretty obvious, but it bears repeating. Seat belts save lives. Use them every time you get in the car.
  10. When the car breaks down, don’t panic. Things happen. Set a plan for your teen to follow if the car breaks down. Teach them to handle problems procedurally as they arise – this is another one of those life skills that will help them later on in life. There’s nothing more empowering than solving your own problems.


These tips are a great starting point for talking to your teen about safe driving. Of course, it’s important to set a good example, so make sure you are following your own rules, too. Remember – we were all teen drivers once. Let’s make sure the next generation gets a chance to pass down those DIY skills you taught them.