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Teen Drivers

Helping Your Teen Become a Safe Driver

​​​​​​​​​​​​Motor vehicle incidents are among the top causes of unintentional injury for teens in Alberta. Both drivers and passengers of motor vehicles are at risk for serious injury, permanent disability, or death.

Most teen drivers overestimate their driving abilities and underestimate the risks of driving. Crash rates are especially high during the first year of unsupervised driving. Using smart risk strategies - look first, get trained, buckle up, and drive sober - can help teens have a better experience behind the wheel and keep their passengers safe.

The Smart Risk Approach

Look First

Take the time to clean windows and mirrors and adjust your seat. Make sure you can see the road clearly every time you get behind the wheel. Pay extra attention when driving at night. The risk of a serious crash goes up when it is dark.

Get Trained

New drivers must develop new motor skills and decision-making skills. Learn driving skills from a driving instructor. Get at least 50 hours of supervised practice in different driving conditions before you go out on your own.

Buckle Up

Use a seatbelt every time. Make sure there are enough seatbelts for everyone. It's the law.

Drive Sober

Driving sober means being fully in control of your mind and body when behind the wheel of any vehicle - car, truck, all-terrain vehicle (ATV), boat, or snowmobile. It means driving without alcohol or drugs in your system, not being tired, and not being distracted (like using your cell phone or by friends).

Dangerous Distractions

The smart risk strategy to "Drive Sober" is about how important it is to drive without impairments or distractions of any kind. Think about these facts:
  • Drivers in fatal collisions are over six times more likely to have alcohol in their system than drivers in non-fatal injury collisions.
  • Alcohol and/or drugs are a factor in more than half of the crashes that kill teens.
  • ​Drivers under the influence of cannabis are six times more likely to have a fatal crash than an unimpaired driver.
  • Teen drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to crash than other drivers.
  • Fatal crashes involving 16-year old drivers are more likely to happen when there are other teens in the vehicle - the more teens in the car, the higher the chance of a fatal crash.

Passengers need to know that driving should take your full attention, especially for new drivers. Don’t let passengers distract you.

Alberta’s distracted driving law restricts drivers from texting, reading, using hand-held cell phones, and other distracting activities while driving. The fine for this offence is $172. For more information abou​t the distracted driving law read Distracted Driving Legislation Bill 16.

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL)

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) reduces injuries among new drivers. The reason is simple: GDL programs limit exposure to the highest risk conditions for new drivers. This lets them get more experience gradually, under conditions that aren’t as risky.

GDL became the law in 2003, changing the way new drivers are licensed in Alberta. Alberta’s GDL program introduced the probationary operator’s license in between the learner’s license and the full driver’s license.

GDL programs are a good start to increasing road safety for everyone. Parents of young drivers also have an important role.

Parenting Teen Drivers

Teens often make decisions involving risk taking. However, being able to assess the risks and consequences, develops as they get older. To prevent dangerous risk-taking and injuries, teens must learn how to recognize risk, manage risk, and make healthy choices.

Parents can help teens learn how to manage risk by letting them try new things and making sure they understand how to stay safe. An important part of parenting teens is helping them learn to watch for and manage risks. They need practice to do this. You can use this approach for many of your teen’s new responsibilities and challenges, including driving.

Research shows that teen drivers have fewer crashes when parents put limits on unsupervised driving and relax these limits gradually, as the young driver has more driving experience. Parents can lead by example and model safe driving behaviour.

Want to learn more?

The Parent/Teen Driving Agreement​ outlines the major risks for young drivers and what parents can do to reduce the risks. It also helps a parent and teen make a plan for unsupervised driving that gradually relaxes limits as their child has more driving experience.​

Current as of: February 7, 2018

Author: Provincial Injury Prevention Program, Alberta Health Services