Strapping yourself into the passenger seat the first time your teenager takes the wheel is one of the scarier turning points of parenting. Teen drivers are four times more likely to crash, on a per-mile basis, than older drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. They are notorious for taking stupid risks and being overconfident about their driving ability. But before you start lecturing your kid, take a look in the mirror. Many of the mistakes teen drivers make stem from things they learn from parents. "You hear all kinds of crazy stuff," says Sharon Postigo Fife, president of The Driving School Association of the Americas in Kettering, Ohio. Here's some of the worst driving advice parents give their teenagers. (See " Are American teens the worst trained drivers in the world?")
Do as I say, not as I do.Telling your kid about the danger of texting and driving won't do any good if you pick up your cell phone while motoring down the highway. "Parents say one thing, and then do something different," says Brandon Dufour, general manager of All-Star Driver, a driving school headquartered in Watertown, Conn. "Starting at about age 11 or 12 your child is paying attention to your driving habits and noting consciously or subconsciously all those things you do ." Two-thirds of surveyed teens say their parents live by different driving rules than the ones they expect their kids to follow, according to research in 2012 by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Decisions. Ninety-one percent reported seeing their parents talk on a cell phone while driving, 88 percent observed their parents speeding and 59 percent said their parents have sent text messages while driving. "Kids figure, 'If Mom can do it, I can do it,'" Dufour says.
It's OK to speed a little.Brad Ault, president of the Florida Professional Driving School Association and Ault's Driver Education Center in Englewood, Fla., says he hears parents tell teens it's all right to drive 5 mph over the speed limit because "everybody does it." But they should teach their kids to obey the speed limit and to drive according to conditions. Too many drivers don't slow down when the weather is bad.
"That's what kills a lot of people," Ault says.A speeding ticket even for 5 mph over the limit can affect your car insurance premiums, says Penny Gusner, CarInsurance.com consumer analyst. "One minor ticket could go either way," Gusner says. "But two tickets -- even if they are both minor -- are a pattern that will scare your insurance company." Pump the brakes to prevent skidding. Before modern brake systems were developed, drivers were told to pump the brakes to prevent them from locking up. But most cars today are equipped with anti-lock brakes, making pumping unnecessary, says Casey Carden, regional chief instructor for the Southeast for the Skip Barber Racing School in Braselton, Ga. Anti-lock brakes are designed to prevent your car from skidding when you use them in an emergency. For a vehicle without anti-lock systems, Carden advises letting up on the brakes slightly, rather than pumping them. "Pumping the brake pedal upsets the balance of the car," he says. Airbags and anti-lock brakes, though nearly universal on newer cars, still bring a car insurance discount with most companies.
Look over the hood ornament as you drive.Looking over the hood ornament doesn't give the driver enough scope. You should look farther up the road -- one to two intersections ahead -- in the city and as far as you can scan in the country, Fife says. Keeping your eyes farther ahead, rather than focusing right in front of you, gives you greater peripheral vision, Carden says. "While you're driving, you want to see everything, but look at nothing," Carden says. "You want to be fully aware of what's going on around you." Plus, how many cars have hood ornaments these days?
Hold the steering wheel at 10 and 2.You might have been taught to hold the steering wheel in the 10 and 2 positions, envisioning the steering wheel as a clock. But that advice became outdated when airbags were developed, Ault says. Today driving instructors generally tell drivers to hold the wheel at the 10 and 3 positions, avoiding an explosively deployed airbag.
All new cars sold today have at least front airbags, but most have side airbags as well. Some manufacturers now offer center knee, seat belt and even pedestrian airbags. (See " How many airbags does a car need?")