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Teen Driver Safety

In Oklahoma, teen drivers had the highest crash rate of any age group. Factors that put teens at risk include:

  • Driver inexperience
  • Distractions
  • Driving at night
  • Speeding
  • Alcohol use
  • Drug/substance use
  • Not using seat belts

Teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable. Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) eases teen drivers step by step through the challenges of learning driving skills to become fully licensed drivers. National and statewide evaluations indicate that GDL reduces injury-related and fatal crashes among 16-year-olds. Three key stages of GDL include:

  • A supervised learning period that lasts at least six months;
  • An intermediate period that allows unsupervised driving in less risky situations such as driving only in the daytime and with limited passengers;
  • Full licensure after the teen has mastered all required skills and parents are satisfied that their teen is sufficiently mature for the responsibility.

What Every Parent Needs to Know (English) (Spanish)

It is common for a parent to feel stress when a teen is learning to drive a car, but the time can become a shared learning experience for parent and teen.

  • Emphasize that a car is a tool, not a toy, and that driving is a privilege that must be earned.
  • Allow your teen to sit in the front passenger seat so they can see the road from your perspective.
  • Point out hazards that may not be apparent to an inexperienced driver. Call their attention to errors other drivers make and discuss what the driver should have done and why.
  • Allow your teen to ask you questions about your driving habits or mistakes. Be a model of safe driving yourself. Your teen will pay attention to what you do as well as what you say.

  • A sports car or vehicle with a high-performance engine is not the best choice, nor is an older car without modern safety features such as air bags. A better choice is a mid-sized sedan with properly functioning safety belts, air bags, anti-lock brakes, and daytime running lights.
  • Be sure the car is in good repair. Lights and signals should work properly. Wheels should be in alignment and the tires have good tread. The braking system should operate smoothly and effectively.
  • If possible, allow your teen to learn to drive in the car that they will be driving after licensure.

  • GDL requirements vary from state to state and should be viewed as minimum requirements. Your teen may need more hours of driving practice than your state requires. You understand your teen’s maturity level best. Remember that you are in charge of your teen’s driving privileges.
  • Oklahoma's GDL

  • A driving contract helps your teen know what your expectations are and helps you respond consistently to violations of the contract or requests for exceptions to the rules.
  • A driving contract helps you track your teen’s progress in acquiring driving skills and allows you to reward your teen as mastery is achieved.
  • Your car insurance company may have a program that can assist you in logging and tracking your teen’s progress and may help your teen qualify for a better insurance rate.

Whether your teen takes a driver education course or you do the teaching yourself — be patient and stay calm. 

Resources for Parents

Teen drivers aged 16-19 are nearly three times as likely as drivers aged 20 or older to be in a fatal crash, per mile driven. Research indicates that GDL systems are associated with reductions of about 19% for injury crashes and about 21% for fatal crashes for 16-year-olds.

Teen drivers aren’t bad – they are inexperienced. Even the best teen drivers can get into trouble in a hurry when driving a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds that is traveling at 70 mph. GDL reduces the risks for young drivers by phasing in driving privileges as they gain experience behind the wheel.

Research shows that teen drivers are more likely to crash if there are passengers in the car, especially if the passengers are other teens. Driving is more complicated than it looks, so for the first six months, only one passenger at a time is allowed unless the passenger lives in the driver’s home or is at least 21 years old and is fully licensed.

Driving at night is more dangerous for drivers of any age. Low visibility, bright headlights on oncoming cars, and fatigue combine to make nighttime driving more hazardous than daytime driving. GDL lessens the risk by limiting driving hours to after 5:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night during the first six months. Driving is allowed at other times only if the activity is related to school, church, or work, or if a fully licensed passenger at least 21 years old is seated beside the driver.

If you are behind the wheel – you have to wait to call your friends. As mentioned earlier, driving is complicated. Using a cell phone while driving causes several distractions at once. You take your eyes off the road, your hand off the wheel, and you are concentrating on the conversation instead of on driving. This is true for drivers of any age, but it is illegal for drivers under age 18 to use any hand-held device while operating a motor vehicle. The only exception is a life-threatening emergency.

Safety Tips

Wear a seat belt – every trip – every person in the car.
Even low-speed crashes create violent crash forces that affect a person’s unrestrained body. You could be thrown against the inside of the car, against other people, or completely out of the car where the car could land on top of you. But if you and your passengers are wearing seat belts, your chances of surviving a crash with minimal injury are greatly improved.

Don’t drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In Oklahoma, it is illegal for a person under age 21 to purchase alcohol or to drive after consuming any alcohol. Even prescription medicines or over-the-counter medications taken in the proper dosage can impair you as much as alcohol or illegal drugs. Every state has zero tolerance laws; every driver simply must be clean and sober.

Obey the speed limit.
Speed limits are set based on careful calculations on what speed is generally safe on that particular stretch of road under a variety of conditions. Getting to your destination alive is much more important than getting there fast.


Wear a seat belt every trip, every person in the car.


Don't drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


Obey the speed limit.

Contact Information

Mailing Address:
Oklahoma State Department of Health
Injury Prevention Service
123 Robert S. Kerr Ave., Suite 1702
Oklahoma City, OK 73102-6406

Physical Address:
Oklahoma State Department of Health
Injury Prevention Service
123 Robert S. Kerr Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK

Telephone: (405) 426-8440
Fax: (405) 900-7588