Driving without parental supervision may equate to a new sense of excitement and freedom for many high schoolers, the anticipation of finally getting to drive your friends around can be a rite of passage.

On the flip side having teens who carpool with peers can be a nerve-wracking experience for many parents.

A new University of Michigan Children's Hospital National poll, based on responses from almost 900 parents who had at least one child ages 14 to 18 shows parents' top safety concerns include:  distracted driving caused by loud music (46%), a cell phone (42%) or other teens in the car (39%).

Some parents also noted unsafe conditions in which their teen rode with a teen driver who was speeding (45%), too tired to drive safely (14%) or impaired by alcohol or drugs (5%).

Despite such concerns the survey also shows teens riding with teens is common. Teens are often passengers in cars driven by other teens to school, activities and social events

One in three parents say their teens are passengers with teen drivers at least once or twice a week and three out of five parents believe their children have been in a car with a distracted and unsafe teen driver.

How big is the problem?

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention national statistics are a big problem valid reasons for parents to worry. More than half of teens who die in car crashes are not behind the wheel and their chances of being in a fatal accident are much higher when there is a teen driver.

What can parents do?

The thought of a car accident is very disturbing but taking precautions will help you avoid them. 

Authors of the national poll suggests parents play an active role in not only preparing teens to be safe drivers but to also be safety-minded and responsible passengers when riding with friends.

Most parents say they have spoken with their teens about what to do if they feel unsafe while riding with a teen driver, such as telling the driver they are uncomfortable with unsafe driving, 63%, asking the driver to stop the car and getting out, 48%; and offering to manage the radio or the phone if it is distracting the driver, 47%.

Set a good example. Children don’t stop watching you as they grow. They see every move and often learn good and bad habits from you. Leading by example is the best way to communicate safety to your new teenage driver. Remember to buckle up and put the cell phone away every time you get behind the wheel of the vehicle.

Enroll teens in a safe driving program. Another great way to make sure your teen is ready to drive is by enrolling them in a safe driving program. Safe driving programs review the basics of driving as well as the risks associated with distracted driving. Plus, completion of a course can earn you insurance discounts!

Shop for the right vehicle. Many parents buy an inexpensive, old car for their teen or pass on a hand-me-down well past its prime. Likely, those do not have the latest safety features such as electronic stability control and side-curtain air bags that are especially important for young drivers.  While your teen may have high hopes of driving a sports car or a high-end vehicle, the reality is that they are not the practical or safe choice.

Remind your teen the actions of a new driver could be costly. Car insurance rates change as you age and based on your driving history. Meaning, reckless behavior as a new driver could cost you, the parent, and drivers in the future.

Create rules. In addition to your state's graduated licensing program, set up a parent/teen contract and outline your own rules and penalties if they are broken. Take the keys away if necessary.

What can teen drivers do?

Buckle up. Besides being the law, seat belts have been proven to save lives, but the message is not getting through to all young drivers. In fatal crashes of 16-20-year old’s, 60 percent were unbuckled at the time of the crash. A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that these drivers were most likely to think that belts were potentially harmful.

Hang up the phone. The risk of talking or texting while driving is high, especially for young people. Eleven percent of drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were distracted.

Slow down. Thirty-seven percent of male drivers between the ages of 15-20 were speeding right before their fatal crash.

Don't drink and drive. While young drivers are less likely than adults to drive after drinking, when they do, their crash risk is significantly higher due to the alcohol effects combined with their lack of driving experience.

Be prepared. Before you head out, especially on a long trip, pack an emergency kit in your trunk. Items such as a flashlight, jumper cables, and first-aid kit are helpful to have just in case

Limit night driving.  In 2010, 17 percent of teenagers' fatalities occurred between 9 p.m. and midnight, and 24 percent occurred between midnight and 6 a.m.

Watch the weather. Teach your child how to confidently handle weather challenges for example, preparing them to manage a skid or hydroplaning incident before they are faced with the challenges alone.

Limit passengers. The more passengers in a vehicle the higher the fatal crash risk. With three or more, the fatal crash risk is about four times higher than when a beginner drives alone. Studies also show that teens with passengers are more likely to take risks and be distracted, and when things go wrong, the tragedy is multiplied.

Don’t make assumptions about what other drivers are going to do. The only thing you can assume about another driver with a turn signal on is that they have a turn signal on. They might not be turning at all, and just forgot to turn it off.

Pay close attention to other cars and pedestrians. Lack of experience can result in drivers not always reacting quickly to potentially hazard situations.

Bottom line, safety experts say encourage teens   to drive like they own the car and not like they own the road.

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