Preparing Your Teen Driver: Sage Advice from The Auto Professor


Handing the car keys to your teenager for the first time can be downright scary. I know. It happened to me! Not only did I have to trust my new teen driver behind the wheel to make good choices, I also had to trust all of the other drivers on the road to do the same. Easier said than done! With all of my knowledge about auto safety, the dos and the don’ts, I knew that there is real risk when you get behind the wheel. I made it my mission to make sure my daughter was ready.

Here’s what I did:

First, I modeled good driving habits even when she was little and in the back in a car seat eating Cheerios. I stayed off the phone and kept my eyes on the road. Distracted driving is becoming a serious issue for all of us here in Arizona. According to AAA, distracted driving accounts for 25 to 50 percent of accidents nowadays. Remember that your kids are always watching you and will do what you do.

Once my daughter got her permit, my husband and I made time to practice with her weekly. Research shows experienced drivers make better choices. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the crash risk for drivers 16 and 17 years old is nearly
double that of 18 and 19 year olds. I know that life gets busy, but scheduling time to ride with your teen driver is vital. The more coaching that you can give them from the passenger seat, the better off they’ll be when they are driving alone. You can also enroll them in a Driver’s Ed course at their high school or find a professional driver education school in your community.

Finally, I made sure that the vehicle my child was going to drive provided the most protection.
Many parents buy a vehicle thinking they’ll pass it down to their teenager when they are ready to drive, but that’s not always the best option. Older vehicles sometimes have fewer modern safety features and less protection. If a new vehicle is in the cards, the teen driver often gets to weigh in. They may lean toward a smaller car in order to save on gas money (if they have to pay for it), or they may want a “fast” car… and we all know that’s not the safest choice.

So what do you do? The first step is to determine your budget. From there, list out all of your available options, your favorites and your teenager’s favorites. Then, narrow down that list by checking the safety rating at I created this website because no one else was telling the truth about safety ratings. Every year, the government gives the majority of vehicles a 4 or 5-star rating. But these ratings are based on crash tests in a lab with dummies behind the wheel. The Auto Grades that you’ll find on are ratings based on nearly two decades of real-life crash data.

Here’s how it works:

At the top of your list is the family car, a 2008 Honda Civic, which gets 5-star frontal crash
ratings from NHTSA. When you input the make, model and year into The Auto Professor, turns out that trusty family car received an Auto Grade of C-. Who wants their child driving a car with less than average protection in the event of a crash? Not me. Your 16-year old daughter may get excited when she sees that we give the 2010 Jeep Wrangler an A for her age group – but be sure to warn her – it gets an A rating when the driver is buckled up and driving safely.

Driving safely means:

  • everyone wearing a seat belt
  • drive within the speed limit
  • don’t drive under the influence
  • don’t drive distracted, or while tired.

My daughter and my grandchildren are precious to me. I know that you can relate. A mother’s love knows no bounds. Truly, that’s why I’ve made it my life’s mission… to help ensure that everyone walks away from a crash.

National auto safety expert and statistician Dr. Norma Hubele is an expert at balancing work and family. Not only is she the creator of The Auto Professor, she’s also an Emeritus Professor of Engineering at Arizona State University, and travels the country as an expert witness in auto safety related cases. She also breaks down barriers – when she started at ASU she was one of only 3 female faculty members and she was the first pregnant full-time professor.

Be sure and connect with her here:




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