"Can I have the keys to the car?"

5 things to know before your teen starts driving lessons

5 things to know before your teen starts driving lessons

"Can I have the keys to the car?" may be the most frightening words ever heard, at least to a parent with a teenager in the household. And, with good reason: according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young people 15 to 20 years of age, causing roughly one-third of all fatalities in this age group.

Fortunately, parents and other trusted authority figures can make a difference, as studies have shown that learning good driving habits with a seasoned driver can decrease the likelihood of crashes and fatalities during a teen's first year behind the wheel. MetLife Auto & Home offers tips and free materials to help teens establish good driving habits.

Download our Teen Driving Contract here

Some tips to consider:

1. Set an example, yourself. Even before your teen "pops the question," it helps to demonstrate good driving practices behind the wheel. Always remember that your teens, and even younger kids, are watching and learning.

2. Get the passenger's view. Before riding with your teen, take a ride with an experienced driver to adjust to the passenger view. You'll be reminded how roadside mailboxes, curbs, and signs seem to whiz by within inches.

3. Keep your lessons short. Be reasonable about what you can accomplish in one lesson. Experts say that the number of times your teen practices with you is more important than the minutes that you log in during any one session. Start with 15 to 20 minutes, and take a break if either of you gets upset.

4. Keep a journal of your progress. In some states, graduated driver's licensing laws require a new driver to submit the time spent behind the wheel with an experienced driver. It can also help you keep track of the lessons you've had with your child: what your teen driver has learned, and what additional skills you need to review.

5. Stay alert and calm. Without warning, your new driver may need help. It pays to be aware of what's taking place on the road, and anticipate any hazards that your inexperienced driver may not anticipate. In addition, it's also important to project an attitude of calm and confidence.

MetLife Auto & Home offers free materials: a step-by-step guide called "Teaching Your Teens to Drive (Without Driving Each Other Crazy!)," and a DVD entitled "Young Drivers, the High-Risk Years." Both provide parents and guardians with important guidelines to follow before their teenagers get behind the wheel and emphasize the importance that preparation and planning can play in defusing potentially stressful situations. The materials are available by calling 1-800-MET-LIFE (1-800-638-5433).