Learning to drive is an exciting milestone for teens, but as a parent, it can be frightening. You love seeing your child learn independence and responsibility but want to make sure they stay safe and make smart decisions on the road. Knowing the laws and regulations around obtaining a driver’s license in Pennsylvania will allow you to best support your teen driver!

Teen Driving Accident Statistics

Knowing the risks for young drivers is important to ensure their safety on the road. Teen drivers age 16 to 19 have the highest risk of motor vehicle crash and are almost three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than any other age group. Out of all teens, 16-year-old drivers have the highest crash rate, and one in five 16-year-old drivers will crash during their first year on the road. Here are some fast facts about teenage driving risks:

  • Car accidents are the leading cause of death for 15 to 20-year-olds.
  • 20 percent of all motor vehicle crashes and 14 percent of motor vehicle deaths involve a teen driver.
  • 10 percent of teen driver fatalities are caused by distracted driving.
  • 43 percent of first-year drivers and 37 percent of second-year drivers are involved in car crashes nationally.
  • In 2016, the victim was not wearing a seatbelt in 58 percent of teen fatalities in car crashes where a teen was driving.

The main causes of young driver crashes are inexperience, high-risk behaviors and distracted driving. Teenage drivers have less experience on the road and may not adjust appropriately for dangerous conditions, like rain or snow. Driving at night also increases teenage driving risks — over 40 percent of teen driver fatalities occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Teen drivers are more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors, like speeding or driving too close to other vehicles— speed was a factor in 32 percent of fatal teen car crashes in 2016.

Distracted driving can also be a major risk for youthful drivers. Distracted driving includes any activity that takes attention away from the road, such as texting, changing the radio station or even talking to passengers. While it is exciting for teenagers to drive with their friends, adding passengers creates more distraction and takes the driver’s focus off of the road. This can lead to fatal consequences — the crash risk for young drivers increases with each additional passenger.

The dangers of distracted driving are staggering:

  • Risk of a crash doubles when talking on a cell phone, but 56 percent of teens admit that they talk on the phone while driving.
  • Dialing a phone can increase teen risk of crashing by six times.
  • Texting while driving can increase the risk of crashing by 23 times.
  • More than a third of teens admit to texting while driving and 48 percent say they have been in a car where the driver was texting
  • Teen drivers are two and a half times more likely to perform high-risk behaviors while driving with one teenage passenger. With two or more peers as passengers, teens are as much as three times more likely to engage in risky driving.
  • In 2016, the most common type of crash for Pennsylvania teen drivers was hitting a stationary object. Single vehicle crashes account for about 50 percent of fatal car accidents involving 16-year-old drivers.

Car Insurance for Teen Drivers

Because of the higher risks for teenage drivers, car insurance for teens can be expensive. Insurance companies take into account a driver’s age and experience, as well as the likelihood they will be involved in a crash. As you have seen, the statistics are not in favor of youthful drivers. However, there are still many ways a teen driver can save on insurance costs:

  • Join a family plan: Most policies offer discounts if you add a teen to your existing auto insurance policy. Young drivers can be added while they have their learner’s permit so your insurance company will have their information in case of an accident. In most cases, you won’t pay for coverage until your teen gets their driver’s license.
  • Take a driver training course: Teens will be rewarded for completing an accredited driver training course. Insurance companies know that formal driving training reduces a young driver’s risk of crashing and the cost of their rates will often be lower.
  • Choose a safe vehicle: Not all cars are created equal when it comes to insurance rates. High-performance cars or cars that are expensive to repair will come with higher premiums. Teens should shop for a car with good safety features and contact their insurance provider for a quote on their vehicle.

  • Keep a clean driving record: Insurance rates will often drop for each year a young driver maintains a clean record without any accidents or traffic violations. Safe driving will protect your teen from injury and put money back into your pocket.
  • Ask about discounts: Many insurance companies provide additional discounts for student drivers, such as discounts for good grades or discounts when college students are not using a car while living at school. Reisinger Insurance offers an ERIE policy with a young driver discount for drivers under 21 who live with their parents and are not married.

Preparing Your Teen for the Road

In Pennsylvania, teens can start driving as early as sixteen years old with a learner’s permit. At this young age, teens should study as much as they can to be fully prepared to get behind the wheel. The Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system helps ensure that teens have enough time to learn before they begin driving on their own. The Pennsylvania GDL system has three steps:

  1. Learner’s permit.
  2. Junior driver’s license.
  3. Senior/unrestricted driver’s license.

The first step to obtaining a learner’s permit is to pass a knowledge test. This test is taken at your local PennDOT Drivers License Center and covers driving laws, roadway signs and symbols and many other essential facts that new drivers must know.

The Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual is an essential resource for studying for the learner’s permit test. While this study booklet is long, it provides practical practice questions after each chapter that will be a huge help on test day. Preparing your teen for driving starts with education, so encourage them to ask questions and learn as much as they can.

Teaching Your Teen to Drive

Once your teen obtains a learner’s permit, they will be anxious to get out on the road — and during the six months with a learner’s permit, this driving experience is essential. The more practice a teen driver has, the better decisions they will make when they start driving on their own. For 56 percent of teens learning to drive, their parents will be their primary teachers. This is a large responsibility for parents to teach their child safe driving practices. Keep these tips in mind to be the best driving teacher for your teen:

  • Take a Long Drive: While your teen is only required to record 65 hours of driving practice, more is always better! Take your teen on a variety of roadways, such as highways, backroads and through the city. Driving in many different environments will best prepare your teen to face any challenge on the road.
  • Model Good Driving Behavior: Remember that your actions will speak louder than your driving advice. Always demonstrate focused driving and obey traffic laws when your teen is a passenger. Show your child what safe driving looks like so they will learn good driving practices.
  • Be a Patient Teacher: After driving for years, it becomes second nature. But for your teen, everything is brand new. Remember to be patient as your teen navigates the new world of driving and know that every teen driver learns at a different pace.

Formal Driving Lessons for Youthful Drivers

If you want your teen to be even better prepared, consider enrolling them in driving lessons with a professional driving instructor. While these courses can sometimes be expensive, they are worth the expertise your child will gain. On top of gaining knowledge, formal driver training has been shown to reduce the rate of first-year driver crashes to under five percent.

Before reaching for your wallet, check if your teen’s high school offers driving lessons. Many schools have driver’s education courses available as a mandatory requirement or an elective course that students can choose to take. These courses often offer driving lessons that students can take for free or at an affordable price, as long as they have their learner’s permit. Encourage your student to enroll in these courses when they are available.

Driving lessons are also available at community colleges or universities, private training schools and even through online institutions. Driver training courses from private instructors vary in price but typically cost from $75 to a few hundred dollars per course. When shopping for a driver training course, look for schools that require ongoing training for their instructors and be sure that the course is approved by the state so your teen gets credit.

While driver’s education is not required in Pennsylvania for a teen to get their license, it allows them to get their license sooner. Upon completion of a drivers education course, your teen will receive a certificate of completion that will allow them to apply for their driver’s license when they are 17 1/2 years old. If your teen does not complete a training course, they will have to wait until they are 18 to get their full privilege license.

Steps for Getting a Driver’s License in Pennsylvania

As previously mentioned, the Graduated Driver’s Licensing system has three steps for obtaining a Pennsylvania driver’s license — each of which has its own particular requirements. The DMV also provides a checklist of the forms and requirements for each step of this process.

  1. Learner’s permit: A Pennsylvania learner’s permit may be obtained when a teen is 16-years-old. They must pass a knowledge test, pass a vision test, and complete a physical examination at their doctor’s office. A learner’s permit application must also be submitted at the time of the knowledge and vision exam. The learner’s permit is obtained at a Drivers License Center.
  2. Junior driver’s license: After holding a learner’s permit for six months and completing 65 hours of supervised driving practice, a teen may apply for a junior driver’s license. They will schedule a drivers test and will receive a restricted driver’s license when they pass. This license stage has specific restrictions teens must follow including a teen driver curfew of 11 p.m. and a passenger limitation of one passenger under 18 at a time, excluding family members.
  3. Senior/Unrestricted driver’s license: When a teen turns 18, they can apply for a senior driver’s license that provides unrestricted driving privileges. There is no curfew or passenger limitation with a senior driver’s license. Teens may apply for a senior license at 17 1/2 years old if they have held their junior driver’s license for one year, do not have any accidents, and have completed an approved driver training course.

Learner’s Permit for Teen Drivers

Understanding the driving laws for 16-year-olds during the learner’s permit stage is essential for your teen’s safety. As a parent, it is your responsibility to set rules for who your teen can drive with and where and when they can drive. According to the law, teens driving with a learner’s permit must:

  • Always drive under the supervision of a licensed adult over 21 years old.
  • Hold their learner’s permit for six months before obtaining a license.
  • Complete 65 hours or more of driving practice, including 10 hours of night driving and 5 hours of driving in poor conditions.

Teens with a learner’s permit are not permitted to:

  • Drive with more than one passenger under 18 in the vehicle.
  • Drive between 11 p.m. and 5 am.
  • Drive alone — teens must have a junior driver’s license to drive by themselves.

A learner’s permit is valid for one year. If a teen has not obtained their junior driver’s license at that time or wants more time to practice, they must contact their local Driver License Center for an extension. A learner’s permit may be extended for up to one additional year.

Tips for Driving With Young Drivers

As a caring parent, you want your child to have the best and safest experience learning to drive. Follow these tips to hold your teen accountable for safe driving practices:

  • Always encourage your teen to buckle up. Studies show that teens with involved parents are twice as likely to wear seatbelts. Buckling up is an easy way to reduce the risk of fatalities in a crash, and it’s also the law.
  • Set clear rules and expectations for your teen, with opportunities for their driving privileges to increase if they follow your guidelines.
  • Consider creating a new driver contract with your teen that lays out written agreements about driving restrictions and privileges. With a physical reminder of agreed terms, your teen is held accountable for the serious responsibility that comes with hopping in the driver’s seat.

Think Reisinger for Your Insurance Needs

When safety comes first, getting a driver’s license is an exciting opportunity for your teen to gain independence and responsibility. Of course, you also need to get auto insurance for your teen driver. Reisinger Insurance Agency Inc. has a variety of auto insurance plans as well as bundles including home or life insurance.

If you still have questions about getting your teen driver behind the wheel, contact us today with all your student driver and auto insurance questions, or to get a free quote.