Parents with new drivers should be vigilant about safe driving every week of the year. This week (Oct. 14-20) is National Teen Driver Safety Week, and it is a good time to reiterate the importance of safe driving with your teen.
Make a point to discuss one aspect of safe driving each day with your teen. Here are some things to review:
- Seat belt use – One of the best ways to ensure safety behind the wheel is to use a seat belt on every trip. Seat belts are the single most effective tools for preventing injuries and deaths behind the wheel, and they saved more than 75,000 lives between 2004-2008. A 2008 study done by NHTSA showed 80 percent of teens said they always wear a seat belt because their parents insisted they do so when they were young. Setting a positive example really does make a difference. Buckle up.
- Cell phone use – Regardless of age or level of experience, cell phone use while driving is dangerous. Drivers using cell phones are four times as likely to crash, and drivers who text are eight times as likely. The statistics are clear – cell phone use behind the wheel can be deadly. Teens already crash at three times the rate of more experienced drivers. There is no reason a driver of any age should be distracted while he or she is operating a vehicle, but it is especially important teens do not compound their high crash risk with unnecessary distractions.
- Nighttime driving – Many parents do not believe driving at night is safe for teens as long as teens are not out too late. Unfortunately, most fatal teen-related nighttime crashes happen before midnight. When it gets dark, the driving environment changes and becomes more complex. It takes plenty of experience to safely drive at night, and to do so with confidence. Spend plenty of time practicing driving at nighttime with your teen.
- Riding or driving with friends – Just as cell phones are a deadly distraction, teen passengers can seriously interfere with a teen’s ability to drive safely. Just one teen passenger increases a teen driver’s crash risk by as much as 48 percent; three teen passengers increases risk by as much as 307 percent. It might be easier to allow teens to carpool with friends or to carry their peers or younger siblings, but always sacrifice convenience for safety. Make other travel arrangements and emphasize the dangers teen drivers face when they are distracted by teen passengers.
- Review your state’s teen driving laws –Graduated Driver Licensing was developed to keep teens safe as they learn to drive. Teens need to be reminded of the laws now and then. For example, every state has a nighttime driving restriction and a minimum number of required supervised practice hours. Make sure your teen understands that violating these restrictions is not only irresponsible, but illegal. GDL is grounded in science and proven to work. Teens must realize these restrictions really do help them stay safe while learning to drive.
- Set your own restrictions – If you haven’t drafted a few household driving rules, consider sitting down with your teen this week and agreeing on some. GDL does not have to be state law to be enforced at home, and many state laws are not strong enough. Parents can go beyond state GDL by riding with their teens after the required supervised driving phase ends, enforcing a nighttime driving curfew of 10 p.m. or earlier, and by banning cell phone use while driving. Take a moment this week to sign a parent-teen agreement, and stick to the terms and conditions outlined within it.
- Talk about the consequences of unsafe driving behaviors – Nearly everyone knows someone who has been affected by a crash involving a teen driver. Personal stories can be powerful vehicles for change, and they often are relatable. Tragedies on our roadways happen to teens just like yours every day. Read personal stories from impacted individuals and families, and discuss the consequences of inexperienced and unsafe driving with your teens.
You’ve spent more than a decade protecting your child. As he or she enters the most dangerous time the teen years, it’s important to continue being protective. These steps can help you coach your teen through the learning process and ensure he or she is as safe as possible on the road.