Topics To Discuss With Your Teen To Keep Them Safe on the Road

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of teen deaths. For many teen drivers, vehicle crashes happen due to lack of driving experience. Teaching your teenager rules of the road could help reduce their crash risk and keep them safe.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving can include many dangerous activities. While some activities such as texting or talking on the phone seem obviously dangerous, any distraction could be deadly. Some risky behaviors to look for include changing the radio station, eating while driving or using a navigation system.

California has primary laws which ban using or texting on hand-held devices while driving. For teenagers under the age of 18, it is against the law to make phone calls on a phone while driving, unless out of necessity in an emergency situation.


While traveling with passengers can contribute to distracting driving, California also has a law against it. For the first 12 months after a teenager receives their intermediate license, they are not permitted to have any passengers under 20 years of age in the car while they are driving.

The exception to this law is when a parent or guardian, an adult who is 25 years of age or older or a certified driving instructor is in the vehicle.

Drinking and Driving

Drinking and driving is illegal. Remind your teen that underage drinking is illegal and can be deadly. For a young adult under the age of 21, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01% or higher can result in a DUI charge, fines and taking a DUI course. Refusing to submit to a chemical test could result in a one-year license suspension.

In addition, possession of alcohol in the vehicle, even if it is fully sealed and unopened, is illegal unless your teen is with a parent or legal guardian or working for someone with an off-site liquor license. This could result in vehicle impoundment, fines and license suspension.

Seat Belt Use

According to NHTSA, seat belt use is the most effective way to protect yourself in a crash. They also say seat belt use is the lowest among teen drivers.

In California, there are primary seat belt laws in place for all passengers of the vehicle. If the driver or any passenger in the vehicle, 16 years of age or older, is not wearing a seat belt, your teen driver could get pulled over.


Speeding is a critical safety issue for all drivers. According to NHTSA, in 2016, speeding was a factor in 32 percent of fatal crashes involving teen drivers. Discuss with your teen the dangers of speeding, especially in inclement weather and hazardous or unfamiliar road conditions.

What Can You Do?

While frequent discussions and reminders with your teen is important in learning safe driver behavior, action could be more effective.

For instance, when a teen obtains a learner’s permit, they are required to log 50 hours of supervised practice driving. Ten hours must be practiced at night. This could be a good time to go on driving sessions with your teen to work on driving skills and positive driver behavior.

If your child or teen is riding in the car with you, be a good role model and practice safe driver behavior. Even if you are in a hurry, remind your passengers to buckle up and don’t move the vehicle until everyone is secure.

Know California’s driver laws concerning young drivers and enforce them with your teenager.

Set your own ground rules with your teen. If they don’t comply, set up consequences for bad driving behavior.

At Needham Kepner & Fish LLP, we want you and your family to stay safe. If your loved one has been injured in a car accident because of someone else’s poor driving, an experienced attorney can help you understand your legal options. Call us today at (408) 716-1668 or fill out our online form.

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