This post is all about Helping Your Teen to Become a Safe Driver. A teen’s driver’s license is a major milestone in their lives. It is a wonderful time, watching them spread their wings and start the path to independence. However, it is also a very dangerous chapter in life for them. While they have passed their tests and taken their courses, auto accidents are still the leading cause of death for teens ages 15-20. This is often because they underestimate or do not recognize the risks of bad driving habits.
Behind the Wheel: Helping Your Teen to Become a Safe Driver
So what can I do to help my child become a safe driver?
Be the First Example of a Good Driver
Risky behavior is often seen by teens first! Studies show that the teens who self-report risky behavior also report their parents doing the same things! For example, a mutual insurance study found that 46% of teens use their phones while driving- and 41% observed seeing their parents do the same.
You are your teen’s first example of how to handle red lights, distracting calls, seatbelts, and passing others… they might not look like they aren’t paying attention, but they are! Teach them that safe driving habits are a big deal by following the same rules and laws that help keep them safe.
Explain the Dangers of Careless Driving
By the time your child has earned their driving license and gotten their first car, they should be well aware of the dangers of careless driving. However, it only takes one lapse of concentration to cause severe damage to themselves, the car, passengers, and other drivers or pedestrians.
Car accident injuries can be catastrophic and could dramatically change your child’s life if they are not careful. However, if they don’t want to listen to you, they can speak to the likes of Dennis Hernandez, who has experience with people of all ages that have been involved in vehicle collisions. The information they obtain from this meeting will ensure they are more cautious on the road and ta\ke better care in all scenarios, rather than just the typical moments where accidents are more common.
Be Careful Not to Set Teens Up to Fail When They Drive
We tell our kids never to text and drive because it is dangerous. But the same mutual insurance study also revealed 47% of teens text while driving because their parents expect a response right away. While it is important to know where they are, impatience can teach them that risky behavior is fine. Instead, work with your teen on safer ways to communicate when they are away from home.
The survey also stated that 37% of parents do not enforce driving rules or punish broken rules, with one of the key reasons being enforcing driving rules is inconvenient. A lack of reinforcement of safe driving habits and laws sets them up to continue the risky behaviors as ‘no big deal.’ This exposes them to greater risks of accidents, injury, and legal penalties down the line. Make sure to help them succeed by reinforcing safe driving practices every day.
Teach Them to Drive Under Many Circumstances
The best way to prepare your teen for whatever comes their way is to have them drive under any circumstances. Take them on regular drives where you review safe driving laws from their driver’s handbook, including:
- Identifying roads signs and how they affect the driver’s decisions
- Parking on a steep hill
- Parallel parking
- Driving at night and in rough weather
- Safely passing and merging with traffic
- Who has right of way at various types of stops
- Driving at various times of the day, including when the sun would be in their eyes, rush hour, and other situations.
The more they know, the better they can judge whatever comes their way when they drive unattended.
Know Your State’s GDL Laws
Every state has its own Graduated Driver’s Laws for teen drivers. These laws help regulate the top threats that increase their chances of an accident, such as late-night driving, distracted driving, and seat belts. I’ve checked the options available to learn the driving laws in Idaho (where we live), and I found two great options – either reading the driving handbook or using a DMV test prep site. I am sure that there are similar options wherever you live in the US.
Help your teen drive safely by memorizing the special restrictions their license puts on them. Help them find a responsible adult to drive with them during legal driving curfews. Make sure they always buckle up. Don’t text them while they drive if your state prohibits teens from using phones and tablets while driving.
The more you know, the better you can support safer driving habits for your teen- and identify when they are engaging in risky behavior.
Avoid Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is dangerous, especially for a teen. You can help your teen avoid distracted driving by:
- Teaching them to pull over or wait to respond to texts, emails, and chat messages.
- Monitor who they drive with, especially friends. Ask passengers to be mindful of how their behavior affects the driver’s attention.
- Avoid distracting talks about their grades, dates, politics, and future when they should concentrate on the road. Wait for safer times for heart-to-heart talks that require their attention.
Go Over the Effects of Drugs and Alcohol
Every state requires teens to drive with 0.0 levels of alcohol in their system. There are also additional laws for various drugs.
While we do not want to think of our kids using illicit substances, they are in a very experimental time with high peer pressure. They may not even realize a drink or snack they ate with a group was spiked until it’s in their system.
Make sure you talk to your teen about the dangers of driving under the influence. Discuss what to do and about the importance of a designated driver if they find themselves under the influence.
Go the extra mile and also include the effects of cold and allergy medicine in the discussion. Make sure to cover:
- Any drowsiness, vertigo, and other side effects of any prescription and over-the-counter medicine they might take before getting behind the wheel.
- How to time the doses so they are awake and alert when they are on the road.
- How to arrange alternate transportation if needed.
Make Sure They Buckle Up
According to teen driver car accident statistics, 47% of teens killed in an accident were unrestrained at the time. Make sure your teen driver and all their passengers buckle up before every trip. Reinforce this rule by making sure everyone uses a seat belt when they drive as well.
Have Them Take Driver’s Education
You can help your teen become a safe driver with professional guidance. Enroll them in a driver’s education course if your state did not already mandate it for their Graduated Driver’s License. You can also:
- Hire a professional driver to help them practice on the road. The expert driver will be fully aware of the latest driving laws and best safety practices, so they can help pinpoint and work on bad driving habits early.
- Enroll them in interactive learning software apps, which give them a weekly progress chart, quizzes, and an easy tab driver’s manual for their state. This helps them reinforce their learning as they go.
- Enroll them in a defensive driving course each year. This will help them refresh safe driving habits and what to do in an emergency. Also, consider a course before their first long-distance trip to have those lessons fresh on their minds.
Write a Contract With Each Other
Sit down together and write out a contract that lists out what you expect and penalties for reckless driving. This will help you both get on the same page from the start, and give you both something to review. Penalties outlined beforehand also help when a broken rule gets emotional- you will have exact rules to cite, and the punishments won’t be made on the fly.
Here is a great printable Parent-Teen Driving Contract from the CDC. Rewrite parts of it as needed to best fit you and your teen’s circumstances.