1. It's never too early to start talking. —
Now's the best time to start talking openly about the risks and responsibilities
of driving. Because car accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens
(CDC 2006), talking with your teen about the risks of driving is literally a
matter of life and death. Set aside some time each week to share your and your
teen's concerns, and continue this dialogue before, during, and after the
2. Set the ground rules with a parent-teen contract. —
A sets the rules, restrictions, rewards, and consequences for your teen down in
writing. It establishes driving as a privilege and is something concrete to which
both you and your teen can refer. Remember, consequences mean nothing if
they're not enforced, and if your teen does a good job, encourage and reward
them with additional liberties.
3. Anticipate peer pressure. —
Teens tend to take more driving risks when driving with other teens. When
your teen is in the car with another teen driver, make sure they know it's okay
to say something during an uncomfortable or risky situation. Go over what to
say and practice so your teen speaks up in dangerous driving situations.
4. No teen passengers at night. —
A teen driver's chance of crashing increases with each additional teen
passenger. In addition, teen crash rates peak dramatically at night. Studies have
noted that risk-taking behavior tends to increase with other teens in the car and
that teen passengers are a dangerous distraction. Make sure you know who
your teen is driving with at all times and ensure your teen's safety by not
allowing teen passengers at night.
5. Practice what you preach. —
Your teen has probably been watching you drive for as long as he or she can
remember. Research has found that parents’ driving behavior directly
influences their teens' driving actions. Poor parent drivers are more likely to
have teens who are involved in crashes and receive traffic tickets. On the other
hand, your teen is more likely to wear a seat belt and be a courteous driver if he
or she sees you doing so.
6. Choose a good drivers ed program. —
Many states require teens to take state-approved drivers education. Learning
about driving from a professional course ensures your teen learns the essentials
of car management, safe driving attitudes, and the current rules of the road. It's
essential for parents to find a drivers ed course with current information and
quality lesson plans.
7. Schedule practice driving sessions. —
Many states have passed graduated drivers licensing laws requiring teens to
take approved drivers education, then earn their learners permit and practice
driving under supervision, all before getting their drivers license. The great
news is that the most stringent of these GDL laws have proven successful in
decreasing the number of teen driving fatalities. So, in addition to choosing a
quality, schedule time for supervised driving sessions with your teen. This will
enhance your teen's learning experience, reinforce proper driving techniques
and skills, and provide time for constructive feedback.
8. Get rid of distractions. —
Cell phones and text messaging are hazardous distractions for teen drivers.
Many states have recently banned cell phone use for teen drivers in hopes of
preventing serious crashes. If your state hasn't passed such a law, make it a rule
in your own driving practices.
9. Make smart vehicle choices. —
Because your teen is at much higher risk for an accident than anyone else in
your family, he or she should drive the safest family vehicle. Pay attention to
size (bigger cars do better in crashes), vehicle type (sedans are generally the
safest type of car), and safety technology (air bags, stability control systems,
and anti-lock brakes).
10. Have a plan in case of an accident. —
Will your teen know what to do in case of an accident? Go over exactly what
your teen should do in case of a crash, even act it out. This solidifies the steps
in your teen's mind so that if things do go wrong, they are handled correctly.
Lastly, print out emergency phone numbers to keep in the car at all times.