When I was growing up, 16 was the magic age that couldn't come soon enough for me and my friends, and for obvious reasons: it was when we all got our driver's licenses.

Unfortunately, it also introduced a significant element of danger into our lives, because cars are big, dangerous machines that should never be taken lightly. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car crashes are the No. 1 killer of teenagers, claiming 3000 young lives every year. These accidents can happen to anyone, even well-behaved teens and "good students" because they are generally caused by inexperience.

What parents should know, however, is that they can (and must) have a positive influence over their teens and instill them with safe driving (and life) habits. Indeed, parents are viewed as one of the best ways to reduce teen car crashes. With this in mind, here are 11 important steps that every parent can take to help ensure that their teens are as well prepared as possible to get behind the wheel of a car.

1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

It's hard to talk to teenagers, but they hear you. Convey to them that driving is a privilege and if they are not responsible, they will lose that privilege.

2. Make a deal.

Create a driving agreement that establishes rules for safety, responsibility, and usage, as well as the consequences of breaking these rules.

3. Extend the supervisory period.

The more practice your teen can get under your supervision, the more experience and confidence (and hopefully sensibility) they will gain.

4. Practice what you preach.

Teens won't embrace safety if their parents don't, so moms and dads should drive sensibly and set the proper example.

5. Money talks.

Teens will appreciate something more if they have to work for it, and paying for insurance, gas, or maintenance will make them feel more invested in the car.

6. Seek professional help.

Don't do everything yourself. Let your teen learn from a professional, because your feedback may be met with resentment and resistance.

7. Slow down.

Young people are in a hurry, and usually for no good reason. Make sure your teen understands that driving too fast increases the chances and severity of an accident, and in many instances is breaking the law.

8. Leave cell phones at home.

Distraction is a major cause of accidents — bad ones. Parents and teens need to leave their cell phone at home, because the temptation to use them is too great.

9. No teens allowed.

For the first several months, only allow your teenager to drive with adults (i.e., mom or dad) and not with other teenagers. Their friends bring more distraction not to mention peer pressure to do reckless things.

10. Forbid alcohol or drugs.

Parents need to constantly plug the message that alcohol and drugs are not acceptable, and will kill them if they drink when they are behind the wheel.

11. Drive by day.

Gradually phase in night driving. Teen accidents happen more frequently at night, so let them build some confidence in the light of day.

Teens are in a difficult period where they need their parents but also want to assert themselves and feel independent. It is important for moms and dads to give them space but to also make sure they understand that they have our unconditional love and respect. If we can get this message across, they will listen to what we have to say while building up their confidence and self-esteem as they navigate the turbulent waters toward adulthood.

If you have questions or concerns, visit the website for the CDC.