Here at Rick’s Auto Care and Collision Repair, we see our fair share of damaged vehicles driven by teenagers. And while getting your driver’s license for the first time is often one of the most exciting times in a teen’s life, it can also be one of the most dangerous.
Auto accidents are the leading cause of death for teens, and teens are four times more likely to be involved in a car accident. So, why are teens at so much more risk on the roadways? One word: inexperience. And studies show that there’s just no substitute for real world experience behind the wheel.
The good news is, there are steps that parents can take to better prepare their teens for when they begin to drive on their own. Let’s take a look at how we can give our young drivers a safer start on the roadway.
Let them drive.
As we mentioned earlier, there’s no substitute for experience, and experts suggest that the more you can give them under your guidance and supervision, the better. If it rains, let them drive. If it snows, let them drive. If you’re going to the grocery store, let them drive. Not only will driving in as many different types of driving conditions as possible give valuable experience they can’t simulate in their driver’s education course, but they’ll gain needed confidence with each successful journey. And each different condition they experience offers parents an added teaching opportunity.
Set a good example.
Experts say that teens start learning driving habits from the time they’re in a forward-facing car seat. So it’s important that parents follow the same rules they want their to follow at all times. Be courteous to other drivers, obey speed limits and traffic laws, and even leave a few minutes early to avoid the necessity to rush. And because kids are learning your driving habits from an early age, talk to your kids about driving and take advantage of teaching opportunities on the road when they present themselves. And it should go without saying, no texting while driving. Put your phone in the glove box, and make sure your kids see you do it, because last year 23% of all accidents involved a cell phone.
Know the GDL Laws.
Most states have graduated driver’s license laws, which limit things like time of day new drivers are allowed to drive, and the number of passengers they can have in the vehicle. These restrictions help to limit the teen’s exposure to higher risk driving situations, and help them further gain the needed experience in lower risk, confidence-building conditions.
Establish rules and expectations
It’s important to clearly define the rules and also the consequences for breaking those rules with your new driver. Most teens consider having the ability to drive a means to more freedom. If your teen knows that the consequence for breaking the rules is losing their driving privileges, they’re more likely to adhere to them.
Sign a parent-teen driving agreement
This driving agreement clearly defines the rules and expectations for your teen driver, and clearly states the consequences for violating them. This prompts discussion about the rules, and encourages conversation about safe driving. It also demands that the teen buys into the guidelines. Then, if a rule is broken and a consequence is in order, it’s all right there on paper, which eliminates any question about how to deal with the situation. You can download a parent-teen driving agreement here: http://www.besmartbewell.com/teen-driving/driver-agreement.pdf
Having a teen driver is both an exciting and scary time for parents. But with your help, you can reduce their risk of being in an accident on the roadways. With a solid driving foundation, hopefully they never experience more than a minor fender-bender. And rest assured that if they do, we’ll be here to get them back on the road and back to the rhythm of their life ASAP.