Teen drivers have a bad reputation. Statistically, there are plenty of reasons why—teen drivers cause and are involved in more accidents than any other driving demographic.

But your age does not have to define your driving behavior. We have a few tips to make you a diamond in the rough—a safe teen driver.

Make “Don’t Text and Drive” a Habit

One reason teens are involved in so many accidents is because teens are so much more on the phone—talking or texting—behind the wheel. You’ve seen the commercials, read the billboards, heard the horror stories, so you know texting and driving don’t mix. Maybe you even pledged not to text and drive, but here’s how to make good on that promise:

Make putting your cellphone out of reach when you drive a habit.

Think about it—you probably never have to remind yourself to put on your seatbelt, do you? Why? Because it’s a now a natural behavior that comes after doing it every time you’ve ridden in a car since you graduated out of a car seat.

You can make putting your phone away that automatic, too, so that you don’t even have to think about not texting and driving.

So, how do you build that kind of habit? A few ideas:

  1. Put your phone on silent so that you don’t even hear the distraction of an incoming call or text. This just makes your phone easier to ignore.
  2. Put your phone somewhere literally out of reach from the driver’s seat—like the backseat. Seriously, you need to create some significant distance between you and your phone so that you’re not tempted to fish it out and check it at stoplights. (That’s a slippery slope, my friends.)
  3. Employ technology to help you. There are lots of apps related to improving teen driver safety. The ones we think are most helpful include:
    1. Live2Txt (or similar app for iOS), which blocks incoming phone calls and texts and delivers a custom message so whoever is calling knows why you’re not answering. (This can actually be a form of positive peer pressure to get your friends on board with your and their own no-texting-habit-forming thing.)
    2. Habit List, which helps you track how many times/days in a row you do (or do not) perform a behavior so you know how close you are to creating a tried-and-true habit. (Research shows that it takes [at least] 66 consecutive days to form a new habit that is so automatic you don’t have to think about it.)

Parents, you can employ technology, too. There are loads of apps out there—some with an in-car component, some not—that can track your teen’s driving behavior and phone usage in the car. Your involvement may be necessary, especially in the hardest, early days of forming a new, healthy no-texting-while-driving habit.

Know Basic (and We Mean Basic) Car Maintenance

If you can drive a car, you should know how to take care of one, at least a little bit. Yes, you can count on the ASE-certified mechanics at Quanz Auto Body to change your oil, replace brake pads and do whatever needs to be done to get the “Check Engine” light to turn off. However, you should not need our help to:

  • Check and fill the windshield washer fluid reservoir
  • Check your oil level
  • Measure tire pressure and put air in your tires

These are very basic maintenance tasks that you can complete yourself. Details for how to complete these tasks are likely items in your owner’s manual. If you can’t find that, YouTube has plenty of DIY videos. And if that fails, please call us. We’re happy to do a car maintenance tutorial with new drivers (and we won’t even give you a hard time about it because we are just so happy you care enough to ask!).

Make Friends with the Interstate System

There will (almost) inevitably come a day when where you need to go necessitates getting on the high-speed interstate. Some young drivers avoid interstates like the plague because they seem so dangerous, so non-stop. That’s actually the beauty of the Interstate System, and you’ll appreciate it more if you take the opportunity to build familiarity with the Interstate System—how exit numbering works, common driver etiquette, where it goes in the greater Albuquerque area, etc.

Here’s what we suggest:

  • Drive on I-40 or I-25 during low-traffic times to start, like Saturday and Sunday mornings when there is no workday commute.
  • Drive on I-40 or I-25 in the dark during low-traffic times, which are just about any day of the week after 8:00 pm, unless there’s a Lobos game—then avoid I-25 near the Cesar Chavez junction.

As you build confidence driving on Interstates, give yourself some practice in heavier traffic. Soon enough, you’ll be another capable driver who can use all possible navigable highways to get where you want to go.