Car crashes are the leading cause of death among 15 to 20 year olds. Handing keys to your teenager for the first time is enough to cause teeth-clenching, hand-wringing anxiety for even the calmest of parents.
Here are ten things that parents can do to help their teens be safe behind the wheel.
Know Your Teen
Not all teens are ready to drive at the same age. Teenagers mature, develop emotionally and become responsible at different ages Parents need to truly know their teen in order to determine when their teen is ready to drive.
Be a Responsible Role Model
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Parents’ driving behavior directly influence the driving actions of their teens. AAA Research has found that, when using the number of collisions and traffic tickets as criteria, the parents of teens involved in crashes were more likely to have poor driving records than the parents of collision-free teens.
Choose Quality Driving School
Driving can be a risky activity for teens and warrants professional instruction. It’s essential for parents to find a driving school with current curricula and professionally trained instructors.
Practice Makes Better Teen Drivers
Supervised driving sessions with parents can provide teens with opportunities to enhance learning, reinforce proper driving techniques and skills, and receive constructive feedback from the people who care most about their safety and success.
No Teen Passengers At Night
Teen drivers’ chances of crashing increase with each additional teen passenger. Parents need to make sure they know who is driving with their teen at all times. Teen crash rates spike at night and most nighttime crashes occur between 9 p.m. and midnight.
Teens Need Sleep
Teens need about nine hours of sleep every night, but many teens fall short due to the combination of early-morning school start times and homework, sports, after-school jobs and other activities. Lack of sleep negatively affects vision, hand-eye coordination, reaction time and judgment.
Cell phones and text messaging have rightly gotten significant media and legislative attention as hazardous distractions for teen drivers. 1/3 of states have recently banned cell phone use by new teen drivers. Parents should make it a strict rule in their households, too.
Create a Contract
A parent-teen driving agreement with rules, conditions, restrictions and consequences of teens’ driving written down in advance establishes driving as a privilege, and not something to be taken lightly. Parents should establish rules and consequences that they and their teens agree upon that extend beyond state laws. If the teen breaks a family driving rule, consequences should be enforced. Proper driving behavior should be encouraged and rewarded with additional liberties.
Discuss and Review
Parental involvement and communication is critical in the prevention of teen-related crashes, injuries and fatalities. Designate a time each week to address concerns (both parent and teen) and review the teen’s driving performance.
Make Smart Vehicle Choices
As the family member most likely to crash, a teen should drive the safest vehicle the family owns. Things to consider are vehicle type (sedans are generally safer than sports cars, SUVs and pickup trucks), size (larger vehicles fare better in crashes than smaller vehicles) and safety technology (front and side air bags, anti-lock brakes and stability control systems).
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