How to keep teenage drivers safe
Teens do plenty of things that give their parents pause. Getting behind the wheel as a new, inexperienced driver may be at the top of the list.
According to the National Safety Council, half of all teens will be involved in a car crash before they graduate high school. But there’s a lot you can do to help prevent your teen from being one of them.
Keeping your teen safer behind the wheel takes time, patience and communication, but the effort changes the statistics for the better. Get started with these tips.
1. UNDERSTAND THE TEEN DRIVER RISK FACTOR.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Per mile driven, teen drivers are nearly three times more likely than older drivers to be in a fatal car crash according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Studies show the risk of a crash is especially high during the first months of having a license. Male teens are at higher risk than females.
Talk about safety early and often with your teen, and help him or her develop safe driving habits for a lifetime.
2. LET HIM PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE.
You can help your teen become a safer driver by spending at least 30 to 50 hours on the road supervising from the passenger seat over a period of at least six months. Mix it up on different roads at different times of day with different weather and traffic conditions. Limit night driving until you are both comfortable.
3. TEACH HER DEFENSE.
Emphasize the art of defensive driving. Defensive driving means, for instance, staying a safe distance from the car in front (allow at least three seconds to stop in good weather, more in bad weather) and remaining aware of what’s going on ahead, behind and next to you. Expect the unexpected, from big trucks swinging onto the highway to animals taking a stroll across the road at dusk.
4. PUT THE BRAKES ON SPEEDING.
Emphasize that speeding, while popular among drivers in general, is dangerous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 35 percent of male drivers between ages 15 to 20 who were involved in fatal crashes in 2012 were speeding.
5. INVEST IN DRIVER’S ED.
Did your teen take up the saxophone or master a three-point shot? Learning anything new and getting good at it takes time and practice — and having a teacher who’s an expert helps. Driving safely is no exception. In some states, taking a driver’s education and training program is required in order to get a license. Check into what’s available in your community.
6. INSIST ON SEAT BELTS.
This advice should go without saying, but it bears repeating because too many teens are still driving without buckling up. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than half of people ages 13 to 20 who died in car crashes in 2013 were not wearing a seat belt. Buckle yourself up every time and reinforce the message to your teen continually.
7. AGREE TO AGREE ON NEVER DRINKING AND DRIVING.
As with seat belts, it’s important to be a good role model for your teen when it comes to not drinking and driving. According to the CDC, even one drink will impair your teen’s driving ability and increase the risk of a crash.
8. KEEP OTHER TEENS OUT OF THE CAR.
Crash risk goes up when your teen drives with other teens in the car, according to the CDC. Make sure your teen has plenty of experience behind the wheel and has developed solid safety habits before allowing even one teen passenger aboard.
9. PUT TEXTING ON HOLD.
Texting is a form of “distracted driving,” even if it’s done while the driver is stopped at a red light or stop sign. One study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that nearly half of all U.S. high school students ages 16 and older text or email while driving.
Monitor your teen’s texting habits, and don’t be afraid to revoke phone privileges, car privileges or both to make safety a priority. Learn about a free Safe Texting App that can help. The app detects when the mobile phone user is driving or riding in a vehicle going 15 mph or more and displays the message “Please Don’t Text and Drive.”
10. MODEL DISTRACTION-FREE DRIVING.
When is the last time you thought, “Is this cheese puff really worth my life?” The fact is, if you eat behind the wheel, you’re setting a bad example for your teen driver, who needs to focus 100 percent on the road — not on food or drink or changing the radio station or talking on the phone (even hands-free) or putting on makeup. Button up your own habits to help your teen develop safe ones from the start.
11. CREATE A CAR SAFETY KIT.
What if the car breaks down or your teen gets stranded by bad weather? You could picture your child all alone on a deserted road, freezing with no food or water or road flares and a dead cell phone. Or you could picture all the helpful items you put in the trunk to help keep your teen warm, hydrated and within reach of help.