Sharing the Road: Grandparents Can Mentor Teen Drivers

  • By Lori

Parents and grandparents alike know that “pit of the stomach” feeling when a child grabs the keys and drives away for the first time. It’s both exhilarating to share their freedom and frightening to consider all of the things that could happen when they are behind the wheel.

A new study recently revealed that grandparents are increasingly paying for auto insurance for both children and grandchildren. A Bureau of Labor Statistics study shows that baby boomers spent $863 million on used cars given as gifts, suggesting that these cars are being purchased for grandchildren drivers. What does this mean for you as you prepare for your grandchildren to hit the road?

Set a Good Example

One of the most important roles grandparents can play is to set a good example for their grandchildren before they are old enough to drive. For example:

  • Slow down when you drive; show your grandchildren respect for laws and limits.
  • Buckle up and require them to be buckled in as your passenger.
  • Stay off of the phone and limit other distractions so that grandchildren see that you value their safety while in your vehicle.
  • Do not get in your vehicle after consuming alcohol. Hand over the keys and model safe behavior.

As your grandchild gets closer to earning a permit and license:

  • Talk about what is involved in maintaining your vehicle—e.g., tires, breaks, oil changes, etc.
  • Know the rules of the road and find teachable moments to share information with your grandchild. For example, many states limit the number of same age passengers a new driver may have in their vehicle until they become more experienced drivers.
  • Share your values and expectations; driving is a privilege.

Your unique relationship with your grandchild allows you to have loving discussions that your teen may perceive as “lectures” if given by their parents.

Vehicle Choice is Key

Budget and safety must outweigh a young driver’s desire for “cool.” Small, fast cars are the least desirable for first-time drivers. “Big and boring” is the mantra, although SUVs are not recommended for younger drivers because they are more difficult to handle. And if the budget allows, new is better than old. The reason for this is reliability and the stability of handling for newer models. Safety is the largest factor. Newer vehicles provide the latest safety technology like side impact air bags, traction control and antilock brakes.

Take a moment to talk with your insurance agent before you shop with your grandchild so you are armed with information about models that are both safe and the most cost-effective to insure.

Involve Your Teen in the Insurance Discussion

Part of sharing this important step with your teen is helping them understand how to manage the costs of their insurance. Your insurance agent can provide you with a list of ideas to help with this conversation. Ask if any of the following apply to your situation:

  • Education and grades matter; students attending high school or college full time with a 3.0 grade point average may be eligible for discounts. Honor roll (or equivalent) may qualify as well.
  • Accredited driver safety and training courses may qualify for savings. Look into “Graduated Driver Licensing”—a three-step program to help new drivers practice driving under lower-risk conditions.
  • Community involvement like scouting, volunteering and civic service is one indication of a less risky teen, and may be rewarded by insurers.
  • Keeping a clean driving record is very important to controlling the cost of insurance for younger drivers. Sharing this at the outset of their driving experience is an excellent way to make your expectations clear.
  • Electronic tracking of teen drivers is gaining popularity. These technologies range from GPS applications available on cell phones that allow you to track where a teen is at any given time, to a chip installed on a vehicle that monitors speed, acceleration, braking, radio volume and can even geo-fence a driver so parents can set boundaries.

As a grandparent, you play an important role in this first rite of passage into your grandchild’s adulthood. Arming yourself with facts and information is your first step to guiding your teen to a safer future. For more information, check out the website for Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Guest blogger Lori Bitter is the Chief Executive Officer of, an online community for baby boomers and beyond.