Driving a car is a “rite of passage” for many teens. However, handing the keys over to your teenage children can bring on severe anxiety for parents.
The single best thing parents can do to prepare a teen to drive on his own is to practice, practice, and more practice. “If you think about driving as a learning curve, the more practice kids get driving, the faster they move across that learning curve and the more confidence they get,” says John Ulczycki, group vice president at the National Safety Council.
Here are five more simple rules that will help protect your teen on the road—and give you peace-of-mind:
1. Limit the number of passengers
Statistically, teenagers are more likely to crash with others in the car. “With each additional passenger that you add to a car, you are significantly increasing your car crash risk,” Ulczycki says. Set limits on how much and when your child can ride with or transport other teenagers. For example, a good rule to consider might be restricting your teenager to driving alone (or with an adult) for six months after receiving her driver’s license. Teenagers who do drive others can limit distractions by regulating noise in the car and keeping their eyes focused solely on the road.
2. Stick to day time driving
Between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. is when almost half of auto accidents involving teenagers – 41 percent – occur. Driving at night impairs vision and a driver’s ability to judge distance and speed, not to mention the presence of more impaired and unsafe drivers than during the day. Ulczycki says that parents should spend more time practicing nighttime driving with their teens.
3. Limit technology
A decade ago, this tip would have been something like, “Don’t fiddle with the radio while driving.” But the explosion of mobile technology has brought on a whole slew of new distractions to teen drivers and passengers. Despite laws in more than 35 states banning texting while driving, research shows that the practice is still widespread. Recently, an anonymous Centers for Disease Control survey found that 58 percent of high school seniors and 43 percent of juniors had texted or emailed in the previous month while driving.
4. Buckle up
Seat belt use among all drivers is much more common today than it was even 30 years ago, and the decline in car fatalities since then proves it. Even still, teens are slightly less likely to buckle their seat belts, either while driving or as passengers, than the rest of the population. Of teen passengers who died in 2010, just 29 percent were strapped in. Parents should help their teens understand the importance of practicing safety as a passengers every bit as much as when they are driving.
5. Don’t drink
Fewer teens are drinking today (40 percent) than in 1980 (72 percent). However, that doesn’t stop some teens from operating a vehicle while intoxicated — or riding with someone who is. Drinking and driving is not only illegal, it’s unsafe. Consider helping your teen come up with a response she’s comfortable giving to turn down alcohol, and insist that she never get into a vehicle with anyone who’s been drinking. We cannot control everything our teens do once they leave the house.
As is our responsibility in all facets of their early lives, we can teach them the right ways and the wrong ways, and hope that they remember the important parts when they leave our nest. Attentiveness and diligence thereafter are the key. Listen and pay attention.
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