Parents of teenagers, listen up. The rules of the road have changed since you first learned to drive, and increased auto insurance premiums may be the least of your worries if your teen becomes involved in a collision. In 2009, eight teens ages 16 to 19 died daily as a result of motor vehicle injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Things change and what I typically ask my students is 'When is the last time your parents took driver's ed – if they even did?' It's nothing personal… they're just not updated on the correct methodologies," says Sharon Postigo Fife, president of The Driving School Association of the Americas.
Learn what you can do -- or not do -- to retain affordable auto insurance rates and to keep your teenager safe behind the wheel.
"Research shows that children's driving records are related to the records of their parents," says Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Teens whose parents had three or more crashes on their records were 22 percent more likely to crash at least once when compared with teens whose parents had no crashes, according to IIHS data. Children whose parents had three or more violations on their records were 38 percent more likely to have a violation on their own records compared with teens whose parents had none.
Parents need to re-evaluate their driving habits and drive the way they want their teens to drive, Fife says.
"Whether or not parents realize it, their teen is going to drive like they do," she says.
How can you set a good example for your children? "Don't speed, don't make turns at 25 miles an hour, don't talk on the phone, eat dinner and all that other stuff when you're driving," says Fife.
James Solomon, program development and training director for the Itasca, Ill.-based National Safety Council's defensive driving courses, agrees that "parents need to set the proper example for teens in the vehicle."
Here are five old driving rules -- and the new rules that can help keep your child driver safe.
Old: Hands at 10 and 2
New: Hands at 9 and 3
Experts used to recommend driving with your hands in the "10 and 2" o’clock position on the steering wheel. However, they have since learned that "the better position is 9 and 3, which gives you a full 180-degree turn of the wheel," says Solomon.
"You will find that some people push an 8 and 4 position. This is a very dangerous position if you are large-chested or large-stomached because your arms are trapped and cannot turn properly. Also, reaching that low on the steering wheel pulls your shoulders down, causing fatigue on the body," he says.
Old: Two-second rule
New: Four-second rule
After much research, the old "two-second rule," in which drivers allotted a two-second following distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them, was replaced with the "three-second or three-second plus" rule, according to Solomon.
If you're more familiar with the old method of estimating car lengths to maintain a safe driving distance, you may not even know how to execute the "two-second rule." You choose a fixed point that is even with the car in front of you. For example, pick a road sign or a building. If you reach that same fixed point before you can count to three, you are driving too close to the car in front of you and you need to fall back a bit.
According to the new rule, drivers should leave a minimum of three seconds following distance between vehicles, and add on additional seconds for factors such as speed exceeding 65 miles per hour and poor "light, weather, road traffic and vehicle conditions," says Solomon.
But teenagers and senior citizens "should always maintain at least four seconds following distance," says Solomon. "With seniors, there are hearing and vision situations, and with teens there is a lack of experience. A lot of high school driver's ed curriculum is set at four seconds."
Old: Left-foot braking
New: Right-foot braking only
Solomon says left-foot braking is another common mistake parents make when teaching their teen how to drive.
"If I have one foot on the gas and one on the brake, I have moved the center of my body to the right, so that in a quick, evasive maneuver I will be off balance. The left foot should always be off to the left to help counterbalance the body," says Solomon.
Solomon says that in newer cars, the brake pedal and accelerator are very close together. That allows you to use your right foot for both, he says.
Left-foot highway driving can be especially problematic. "Not only is it not very economical – drivers are literally burning the brakes off of their vehicles – it also sends false signals to the driver behind you. After a while, their brain will override the braking signals and a collision will occur," says Solomon.
Old: Pump the brakes
New: Don’t pump the brakes
In the past, drivers were taught to pump the brakes if the wheels lost traction on a slippery road.
"That's no longer the case with modern, antilock brake systems," says Rader.
Antilock brakes are designed to prevent the wheels from skidding by monitoring the speed of each wheel and automatically pulsing the brake pressure on any wheels where skidding is detected, he says.
Adds Solomon: "The onboard sensors [on antilock brakes] are pumping the brake a lot faster than you ever could
Rader says antilock brakes haven't been found to reduce overall crashes. "But these systems are the basis for electronic stability control which research shows is significantly reducing crashes," says Rader.
Old: Flashing headlights to send a message
New: Don't use headlights to communicate with other drivers
Drivers sometimes flash their headlights as a way to communicate with other drivers. Depending on the situation, headlight-flashing can mean:
· Speed-trap ahead
· Accident ahead
· Turn off the high-beams, you're blinding me
· I'm giving you the right-of-way
· I'm not yielding, so watch out
· You're going way too slow for the fast-lane
· Nice car, buddy! I have one just like it!
There are three reasons to avoid flashing your headlights: the intended meaning can be misinterpreted by other motorists, it can make it difficult for other drivers to see and it is illegal in some states.
Because there are so many different meanings for flashing your headlights, doing so can backfire by confusing your fellow drivers.
In cases where you want to tell an oncoming driver to turn off their high-beams, flashing your lights can be dangerous. The North Dakota Parent Guide to Teen Driving, for instance, advises drivers not to flash high-beams because headlight glare can "temporarily blind you."
In addition to confusing motorists or making it difficult for them to see, flashing your lights is also illegal in some states. For instance, in North Dakota it's against the law to flash headlights when there is oncoming traffic. In Washington, it's illegal to flash lights within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle and within 300 feet as you approach another one from behind.
Here are a few more tips for helping your teen become a safe driver:
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