Parents believe they have the most influence over their teen's driving habits. They are right; parents not only have the most influence over their teen's driving practices, but they are also the most effective at reinforcing safe driving habits to their teen.
As a parent, you have driven your child to school, practice, stores, friends' houses, etc. for at least 15 years before your child got a driving permit. Your teen has been observing the way you drive. What good or bad habits you have will be picked up by your teen. It is therefore very important that you set a good example every day. A risky driving habit (i.e. speeding, talking on a cell phone while driving, not wearing a seatbelt, running red lights, etc.) that you practice, will be perceived as an okay thing to do by your teen. This poor judgment on your part may cost you your teen's life.
When you practice a risky driving behavior, you are condoning dangerous driving. Remember, a driving habit you know to be risky at your age, with many years of driving experience, is a million times more risky for your 16-year-old novice driver with virtually no experience.
When you are driving your child somewhere (especially in the time before she gets a driving permit or during the time she has the permit), use the time to explain safe driving habits (i.e. when your teen turns up the radio, turn it down and say, "Anna, you will be driving soon, and you can't have the radio too loud or you won't be able to hear ambulances."). Talking about safe driving habits with your teen, before he can drive, will prevent a lot of frustration and arguments.
Bad habits create bad accidents.
Concentrating on driving safe and setting a good example for your teen will not only teach your teen how to drive safely but it will also improve your own driving habits. The actions you do weigh more than what you say; the "do as I say, not as I do" method of teaching is not an effective one. Remember that you are a role model every day, so set a good example. Don't lead them in the wrong direction.
Here's one way you can be a good teacher/role model:
In addition to preaching to your teen, which can seem patronizing, exercise your teen's driving knowledge. Ask your teen to critique the way you drive. This will provide a great learning opportunity for your teen and make you the center of the criticism, so your teen doesn't feel picked on.