The number one cause of death among teens is car crashes. As a parent, you are the greatest influence on your child's driving behavior. Talk to your teen today. For tips on visiting with your teen and points of discussion, visit under your influence.
Safe Driving Practices
Sometimes parents hesitate to set rules because their son or daughter says their friends don’t have driving rules. There is nothing further from the truth. Follow these guidelines to ensure your teen becomes educated on safe driving practices.
- Don't rely solely on driver education. High school driver education may be the most convenient way to learn skills, but it doesn't necessarily produce safer drivers. Poor skills aren't always to blame. Teen attitudes and decision-making matter more. Young people naturally tend to rebel. Teens often think they're immune to harm, so they don't use safety belts as much and they deliberately seek thrills like speeding. Training and education do not change these tendencies. Peer influence is great but parents have much more influence than they are typically given credit.
- Restrict night driving. Most young drivers' nighttime fatal crashes occur from 9 p.m. to midnight, so teens shouldn't drive much later than 9 p.m. The problem isn't just that such driving requires more skill. Late outings tend to be recreational, and even teens that usually follow the rules can be easily distracted or encouraged to take risks.
- Restrict passengers. Teen passengers in a vehicle can distract a beginning driver and/or lead to greater risk-taking. Because young drivers often transport their friends, there's a teen passenger problem as well as a teen driver problem. While night driving with passengers is particularly lethal, many fatal crashes with teen passengers occur during the day. The best policy is to restrict teenage passengers, especially multiple teens, all the time.
- Supervise practice driving. Take an active role in helping your teenager learn how to drive. Plan a series of practice sessions in a wide variety of situations, including night driving. Give beginners time to work up to challenges like driving in heavy traffic or on the freeway. Supervised practice should be spread over at least six months and continue even after a teenager graduates from a learner's permit to a restricted or full license.
- Commit to coaching your teen. Drive in different driving conditions and at different times of the day. It’s best to start off in basic low-risk situations and gradually move to more complex situations, such as highways and driving in the rain.
- Remember that you're a role model. New drivers learn a lot by example, so now is the time to step up your driving game. Always wear your safety belt, obey traffic laws, never talk or text on the phone while driving, don’t speed—the list goes on and on, but remember, lead by example.
- Be Patient. There may be times when you want to yell, but remind yourself to remain calm, patient and positive and talk through the driving choices your teen makes. When necessary, agree to take a breather and work it out.
- Require seat belt use. Remember that seatbelt use is lower among teenagers than older people. Insist seatbelts be worn at all times while in a vehicle. Seatbelts save lives and it only takes three seconds to click it.
- Prohibit drinking. Make it clear that it's illegal and highly dangerous for a teenager to drink alcohol. Even small amounts of alcohol can alter a teen's judgment and driving skills.
- Choose vehicles for safety, not image. Teenagers should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of a crash and offer protection in case they do crash. For example, small cars don't offer the best protection in a crash. Avoid cars with performance images that might encourage speeding. Avoid trucks and sport utility vehicles - the smaller ones, especially, are more prone to roll over.
AAA's Recommendations for Being A Good Driving Coach
- Practice with your teen. Plan for as much supervised practice behind the wheel as possible. It’s the key to helping your teen develop skills to become a safe driver.
- Select a goal for each session. For example, you may want your teen to focus on identifying potential hazards ahead or accelerating and braking smoothly.
- Take regular breaks. Stop every 20 minutes or so and review the past few minutes of driving to help your teen process the experience. If your teen did something dangerous behind the wheel, explain why and discuss potential consequences.
- Agree on how to communicate before you drive. For example, establish that the word “right” will be used as the opposite of “left” rather than as an affirmation (“correct”).
- Keep it interesting. Change the time of day, driving conditions and routes to allow your teen to gain confidence in diverse situations.
- Try out progressively more challenging driving situations. These can include parking garages, urban areas and interstate driving, for example.
- Use “commentary driving.” This means having your teen drive and provide feedback about any object or event you encounter that could result in the need to change speed, direction or both.
- Be patient. You and your teen may become stressed during these sessions. Remaining relaxed and even-tempered can go a long way toward reducing your new driver’s stress and help improve driving skills.
- Be positive. Remember to point out and reinforce good driving behavior.
Keep It Safe
- Help your teen understand that other drivers sometimes make mistakes or deliberately do things that are dangerous. Teach your teen that other drivers can be unpredictable. Novice drivers sometimes assume other drivers will do what they are “supposed” to do. Experienced drivers know this isn’t the case.
- Explain how to minimize risk from other drivers’ mistakes. Increasing following distance and visual scanning are just two of the ways your teen can increase safety around distracted or unsafe drivers.
- Explain how you manage different factors involved in driving, such as:
- Inclement weather such as rain and snow
- Hills and curves
- Slow drivers
- Highways, rural roads and city driving
- Railroad crossings
- Big trucks
- Disruptive passengers
- Impaired and distracted drivers