More than one-quarter of parents surveyed said they don't enforce all teen driving laws for their children. That may put their teen drivers at risk. Traffic safety experts credit graduated driver licensing laws for lower teen driver fatality rates over the past two decades.
Insure.com surveyed 450 parents of teen drivers to determine whether they enforce GDL laws, which GDL laws they enforce and other car-related questions. GDL laws restrict young drivers, such as limiting the time of day and who's in the vehicle with teen drivers.
Despite fewer teen driver fatalities than in the 1990s, car crashes remain the number one killer of teens in the U.S. Teens are also the highest crash risk of any age group. Insurance companies view teens as riskier drivers, so they charge higher premiums when adding a teen to your policy.
Are Parents Enforcing GDL Laws?
Insure.com found that more parents say they’re enforcing GDL laws than last year.
Seventy-three percent said they always enforce GDL laws. That’s a 10-point increase from our 2020 survey. The 26% of parents who don’t consistently enforce GDL laws were split between saying they never enforce them, sometimes don’t enforce them or don’t know the laws.
Here’s how the 2021 survey results compared to the same survey question in previous years:
Did you or are you enforcing your state's graduated driver's license laws for teen drivers?
Unlike in previous surveys, Insure.com found that dads are doing a better job enforcing GDL laws. Seventh-six percent of fathers and 71% of mothers say they consistently enforce GDL laws.
Last year, only 58% of Dads said they always enforce the laws and 64% said the same in 2019. Enforcement by Moms was 68% in 2020 and 73% in 2019.
The biggest difference this year was the percentage of mothers who said they don’t remember the GDL restrictions, so they’re not sure if they’re enforcing them. Fifteen percent of mothers said they’re not sure. That's compared to just 4% of fathers.
Here are this year’s results by gender:
Why Parents Aren’t Enforcing GDL Laws
Why wouldn't parents consistently enforce laws meant to protect their children? The number one reason is that they don’t know GDL laws.
Here are the results compared to previous years:
Why do you sometimes or never enforce the GDL laws/requirements?
Time Restrictions, Cellphone Ban Are Top GDL Laws Being Broken
Time restrictions and cell phone use while driving are the GDL laws that parents don’t enforce the most with their teen drivers. These are the same top responses as the 2020 survey.
Which GDL laws do you sometimes or never enforce for your teen driver?
If parents don’t always enforce GDL laws, that must mean they're confident in their children's driving, right? Not exactly.
Insure.com asked parents about their teen's worst driving habits. Parents pointed to these five as the most significant problems:
- Texting while driving
- Not wearing seatbelt
- Backing up
- Distracted driving
- Parallel parking
Time Spent Training Teen Drivers
One way to get your teen driver ready for the road is to train them properly.
The survey found nearly as many parents spent at least 21 hours of driver training with their children as those who spent less than five hours in training.
Twenty-eight percent of parents (including 42% of mothers) said they spent at least 21 hours teaching their teens to drive. On the other end, 25% said less than five hours were spent on the road for training because the teen didn’t need much instruction. That includes 32% of fathers.
Do Parents Text While Driving With Their Teens In The Car?
Parents don’t always model stellar behavior behind the wheel.
The survey found the percentage of parents who say they never text with their teens in the car dropped this year. Also, the percentage who said they frequently text with their children in the vehicle skyrocketed.
Here are the results:
- 39% said they never text with their teens in the vehicle (down from 58% in 2020)
- 24% said they frequently text (up from 4% in 2020)
- 22% said they sometimes text when they feel they can still do it safely (up from 10% in 2020)
- 16% said they hardly text, just a few times when it was necessary (down from 28% in 2020)
Fathers are more apt to text with children in the car. Thirty-seven percent of dads said they frequently text with their teens in the car. That’s compared to just 11% of moms.
Fifty-four percent of mothers and 24% of fathers said they never text with their children in the car.
Parents plan to put limits on older teens
Some parents don't always enforce GDL laws, but many parents said they plan to limit their teen's driving after they're fully licensed and no longer restricted by GDL laws.
That decision could be critical. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GSHA) estimated that older teens are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash between midnight and 6 a.m. than younger teens. GSHA said expanding GDL laws to older teens could help reduce that sobering statistic.
The survey found that most parents said they plan to continue restricting their teen drivers even after they're fully licensed. More than four out of 10 parents expect to limit:
- Cell phone use while driving
- Late-night driving
- The number of friends riding with the teen