As a parent, you may have mixed feelings about the thought of your child driving. Having your child drive themselves to sports practices and run errands can definitely free up your time. On the other hand, the roadways are a dangerous place for teens. In fact, car crashes are the #1 killer of teens. This is especially true during the summer when teens are out of school and more likely to be found on the road.
The high number of crashes and fatalities among teens can cause worry for concerned parents, but worrying isn’t going to help. Instead, parents need to be proactive and talk with their kids about the many dangers of driving. Among teens, inexperience is the top cause of accidents. Conversations and driving lessons can help your teen gain confidence behind the wheel.
How you can help your teen driver
Your teen should understand that driving is a privilege, not a right. As a parent, you can revoke this privilege at any time, as long as your child is a minor. Honestly, this should only be done if your teen has already been in an accident or has been caught driving recklessly.
Although this number varies by state, your teen will be required to get a specific number of supervised driving hours before they can take the driving test. The supervision must be done by an adult – preferably a parent or driving instructor. As a parent, you should do your part to make sure that your child has enough experience driving in a variety of situations. Don’t be afraid to practice! 54% of teens wish their parents had spent more time teaching them the fundamentals of driving.
Teach your teen to park and back up properly. Drive in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Have your teen drive in traffic, on the freeway, and on narrow roads. Practice driving in the fog and rain. You’ll be in the car to guide your teen, and they will need to eventually learn to drive in these conditions anyway, so better to teach him or her now.
Allow your teens to earn advanced driving privileges. Once your teens get their licenses, restrict their driving to safe situations like driving to and from school only. Once they earn your trust, allow them to drive at night. You can then allow driving in the rain, on the highway, or with friends. This will allow your teens to gain experience and learn maturity.
Teach your teens about the risks of driving
The act of driving should not be taken lightly. Teens are involved in more car accidents than any other age group. This is mainly due to their young age and lack of driving experience. Teens also tend to run red lights and stop signs, drive too fast, tailgate, and constantly move from one lane to another.
Distractions can also lead to accidents. Changing the radio station, eating, and applying makeup while driving can cause your teens to take their eyes off the road. Texting while driving is an especially dangerous activity. When teaching your children to drive, keep all distractions at home. A teen’s sole focus should be the roadway.
Avoiding risky behavior
Teens tend to engage in risky behaviors, such as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These substances are known to impair judgment and cause serious accidents and even death. Many teens – particularly boys – race with other cars at high speeds. A loss of control can lead to a serious accident.
Teens like to drive their friends around, so many cars are filled with teen passengers. More passengers equal more distractions, and these distractions can take your child’s eyes off the road. While wearing seat belts is the law, many teens refuse to wear one because it makes them look uncool. Stress to your children that seat belts keep you safe – and safety is cool, especially if it keeps you alive.
Consider a contract
It’s important that your teens know what is expected of them. That’s why creating a contract is a good idea. This may seem extreme, but this document will include rules that both you and your teens will abide by, and it will ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to your teens’ driving privileges.
You can find a contract here, or you can create your own based on your expectations. Your teens’ responsibilities should include calling home if they are late, changing plans, or cannot get home safely. Your teens should not let anyone drive the car or drive while intoxicated. The contract should also include basic safety, such as following traffic laws, wearing a seat belt, and avoiding aggressive behavior.
As a parent, your responsibilities are to be respectful to your teens and provide feedback without being overly critical. You should also avoid speeding and driving while intoxicated. You should also agree to engage in safe driving habits, which include following traffic signals and wearing a seat belt.
Practice what you preach
Above all, be a good role model. Your role as a parent is to teach your children how to act and behave. Therefore, model good driving behavior. Always follow the rules of the roadway, especially when your children are in the car with you. Refrain from speeding. Be courteous to other drivers. Don’t use your phone when driving, and never drink and drive.
Be involved and supportive as your teens learn to drive. This can help reduce your children’s accident rate by as much as 50%. By doing your part, you can help your teens gain the skills and confidence they need to become safe drivers.