Once your teen gets their driver’s license, they’ll be eager to hit the ride and drive whenever they can. Even when you know your kid is a great driver and responsible, you still worry. They are young and inexperienced, and that’s cause enough for worry. The National Center for Health Statistics says that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among children 15 to 20 years old.
Here are a few things parents can do to minimize the risk for their own teen driver.
- Lead by example. Long before your kid gets their license, you should be modeling safe driving behavior. That means following speed limits, signaling appropriately, and driving carefully. Keep your phone tucked away and limit eating and drinking, as well as any other distractions. It’s hard to make a case for safety first if you’re not practicing what you preach.
- Limit driving at night. Fatal accidents are more likely to occur at night and newer drivers don’t have the experience to make the same judgment calls more seasoned drivers will. Between the decreased visibility, the higher potential for fatigue, and all the other distractions a young driver face, anything other than necessary trips should be avoided.
- Get your teen the safest car you can. They may desire a very specific kind of vehicle or maybe just wants the cheapest car to get them around. Whatever they’re driving, make sure it’s the safest option. Choose a car with low rollover risk, stability controls and automatic braking systems. A car that’s too powerful or doesn’t handle well for the weather in your area should be avoided.
- Limit distractions. Teens are at most risk for crashes when they are distracted. (By the way, that’s true for adults, too!) Some states limit the number of passengers a teen can have in the car, so be sure to follow the law in your area. If there is no such law, consider setting a rule yourself.
- Zero phone policy. Insist that your teen never use their phone while driving. Don’t call or text when you know they are driving if you can help it. Also, establish a rule that even if you, or someone else, does call or text while they’re driving, they must wait until they are off the road to return the message.
- Get it in writing. When you hand over the keys to the car, you should feel confident that your child will handle the vehicle responsibly. You may wish to set the rules suggested above, and any others your feel necessary, in writing for your child to agree to if they want to borrow the car. This way, there’s never a question about what’s expected.
Kids want to enjoy the freedom of the open road. Insisting that they do so safely helps keep everyone alive.
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