Experience counts when it comes to safe driving. Passing a driver’s test alone does not mean that a young driver is “experienced.” There is no magic number of miles or hours that signals experience.

A teen’s greatest lifetime chance of crashing occurs in the first six to 12 months after receiving a license. After that time the risk diminishes, but remains twice the rate of adults until they reach their 20’s. Every teen is unique in how long it takes them to become experienced. Skills and decision-making abilities come only after many hours behind the wheel.

Based on review of research, a teen driver moves through the following stages while developing driving experience

Stage One: Novice – Learning to drive is often characterized by knowing the rules of the road. However, simply following the rules of the road, or knowing how to steer, reverse, make turns, and park is not enough to be a safe driver. New drivers need adult supervision, not only to explain the mechanics of driving but to also provide specific guidance to navigate various road conditions.

Stage Two: Advanced Beginner -- New drivers who have completed the minimum state-required practice hours to acquire a license generally know how to deal safety with a few traffic situations. For instance, many will lower their speed in congested zones and residential areas. These teens often overestimate their driving competence, putting themselves in situations beyond their ability. During this stage, they need rules and close supervision. Continued adult-supervised practice helps them gain experience.

Stage Three: Developing Competence – With more experience, reflection, and guidance, young drivers begin to build a broader base of on-road, behind-the-wheel experiences which allow them to:

  1. Monitor the environment around the vehicle, scanning far ahead to identify risks and to adjust driving accordingly
  2. Always wear a seatbelt as the driver and make sure that passengers do too
  3. Recognize and avoid distractions inside and outside of the vehicle
  4. Never drive impaired (drowsy, drugged or drunk)
  5. Control emotions when driving
  6. Recognize and avoid driving in conditions that are too challenging
  7. Never take intentional risks while driving
  8. Respect other road users, including motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians and adjust driving behavior accordingly