For a teen, finally being able to drive is exciting, fun, and empowering—an important step towards independence. As parents of a teen, however, having your son or daughter begin driving can be scary and stressful. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers.
So, how can you help your teen become an attentive, careful driver?
Set an example. You should be teaching your child about driving long before they get behind the wheel. They will learn a lot during driver’s training, but don’t let that be the only training they receive. Set an example of how you want your teenager to drive: use your turn signals, drive the speed limit (or close to it), leave early so you aren’t tempted to speed, etc. Practice self-control when it comes to using the cell phone while driving. Remember, your children are watching your driving for years before they get a learner’s permit.
Set up your guidelines. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, parents should restrict night driving and the numbers of passengers riding with their teen. It’s also important for parents to supervise practice driving. Here are a few questions to go over with your partner and your teen:
Make your expectations clear: always wear a seatbelt, no texting or using the phone while driving, and never drive if under the influence. Those rules must be nonnegotiable, and they’ll be a lot easier to enforce if that’s how you drive, too.
Get rid of distractions. According to t-driver.com, there are three main types of distractions: visual (taking your eyes off the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), and cognitive (taking your mind off what you’re doing). In other words, a distraction is anything that takes your mind and attention away from the task of driving. Fiddling with the radio or iPod, rowdy passengers, really anything but keeping a sharp eye on the road and other drivers—all are distractions that must be eliminated.
It’s never too soon to start preparing your children to be safe behind the wheel. Clearly modeling safe driving practices and explicitly discussing your expectations with your teen will go a long way towards raising a safer teen driver.