How you play a role in teen safety
The cause of many teenage crashes is not an issue of insufficient skills or knowledge. It's often an issue of attitude and maturity. You, the parent, and your influence can help shape a responsible attitude about driving.
- Remember you are a role model. New drivers learn a lot by example, so practice safe driving. Teens with poor driving records often reflect the behavior of parents with poor driving records. That means Mom and Dad need to obey speed limits and demonstrate safe driving habits.
- Supervise as much practice driving as possible. Parents should take an active role in their teenagers' driving practice. Make a firm schedule to supervise your future driver and stick to it. Let your teen drive in a wide variety of driving conditions to build experience and confidence. Give your teenager a chance to get the feel of inclement weather, heavy traffic, urban and rural situations and night driving.
Plan on supervising for at least six months in order to get a teen acclimated to the road before he or she takes a driving test to get a license.
- Be firm about safety belt use. If you wear your safety belt every time you drive, your son or daughter can adopt this behavior more easily. Require that your teenagers wear safety belts at all times - no exceptions.
- Discuss realistic consequences of drug and alcohol use. Teenagers realize that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is clearly dangerous, but a face-to-face discussion with Mom and Dad is a strong reinforcement.
Remind them that it is illegal for teens to drink alcohol - and illegal for anyone to use drugs. Discuss how marijuana, other drugs and alcohol can impair their senses. Talk about the chemical effects on their perceptions and reaction time after they've consumed even one drink or smoked one joint. Let them hear it from you that alcohol, marijuana or other drug use when driving is totally unacceptable.
For more help getting the point across with your teens, visit www.TheAntiDrug.com/.
- Restrict passengers. Teen drivers often transport their friends. It's a practice that has to be limited and supervised carefully. Having more passengers in a car increases the chance of greater risk-taking, primarily because of greater peer pressure. It also leads to greater distractions.
- Limit night driving. Many teen car crashes take place between 9 p.m. and 12 midnight. Beginning drivers should be restricted to driving during the day initially, and gradually introduced to night driving as they gain experience.
- Keep it slow and safe for starters. Remember that teens need to stay away from fast-moving, high volumes of traffic until they feel comfortable in such situations, and until parents feel they have had adequate experience. Gradually introduce more difficult driving situations such as highway driving, merge ramps and major urban areas.
- Train for poor weather conditions. Don't expect your teenager to be comfortable driving alone in poor weather conditions. They'll feel more comfortable if you've been on the road with them coaching them through rainstorms, snow, wind, sleet and ice. Limit your teen's driving during periods of bad weather until the teen demonstrates a high level of competence and confidence.
- Restrict cell phones to emergency only. Don't let bad habits begin. Provide your young teen with a cell phone for the car for emergency situations only. The phone can be programmed to access limited locations: 911 and family members' home and work numbers.
If it is necessary to use a cell phone, instruct your teenager to pull safely over to the side of the road to make an emergency call.
- Choose safe vehicles for your teenagers. Proper attention to the vehicle a teen drives is as important as his or her actual driving.
Look for automobiles with high safety ratings (air bags, crumple zones, etc.). Look at federal statistics and consumer-report literature to help evaluate the safety rating of a vehicle. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) offers valuable vehicle and safety advisories. Go to the IIHS website for the latest crash test results or check out our Safe Cars for Teens section.