The following facts may be startling, but they are a necessity for parents who are about to give their teenage child the car keys:
• Car crashes are the #1 killer of teenagers.
• These crashes claim the lives of about 3,000 teenagers every year.
• That’s about 8 teenage deaths each day.
• Teenagers are three times more likely to crash than older drivers, regardless of grades or “good kid” status.
So what’s the solution? Should you withhold keys from your teenage child until they’re 45? Purchase a tank to prevent any possibility of crashes?
That may be your gut reaction, but the truth is becoming a safe and responsible driver is the first step towards becoming an independent adult. Luckily, there are ways you can reinforce safe driving practices and help keep your teen safe on the road.
1. Talk with your teen about what it means to be a safe driver.
Cars have become safer over the years, so sadly, the staggering number of car crashes that occur annually are mostly due to human error. Reduce the possibility of mistakes your teen will make while driving by discussing some of the most important safe driving rules:
• Don’t speed
• Don’t drive drowsy or late at night
• ALWAYS wear a seat belt
• Stay alert and wary of other drivers on the road
• Keep your vehicle functioning safely and properly
• Limit passengers while driving
2. Stress the importance of driving without electronic distractions.
Alcohol and cellphones. The first has long been commonly associated with tragic driving injuries and fatalities. The second is only showing its true danger to drivers in recent years. Distracted driving due to texting/chatting on cellphones “creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted,” according to the FCC.
Stress to your teen that, while he/she is in the car, they shouldn’t use a cellphone for any reason. Even hands-free calling and texting doesn’t completely rid your teen driver of the risks associated with distracted driving.
If your teenager has shown disregard for this important rule, there are ways you can protect them. Apps and specially-designed devices can block cellphone usage in cars so your teen won’t be able to text or make calls while driving.
If this seems a little overkill, lead by example. Shut off all electronic devices before you drive a car or leave them in a spot you can’t access them while behind the wheel.
Have each member of the family, even non-driving members, take a pledge to never use devices in the car. It will reduce distraction by drivers and foster quality time between each family member.
3. Establish a “flight plan” every time your teen gets behind the wheel.
Just like air traffic controllers, request a “flight plan” from your pilot – uh, teen driver – before he/she drives. Make sure you get detailed, legitimate answers from your child beforehand so you’ll know what to expect from the drive. According to Consumerreports.org, before the drive, you should determine
• Time of day they’ll be traveling
• When they expect to depart and arrive
• What car they’ll drive
• When they’ll contact you next
• What plan they have in case plans change or something goes wrong
• How much sleep they had the night before/how well rested and alert they feel
4. Discourage or restrict “joyriding.”
Make sure your teenage driver has a particular destination in mind before he/she gets out on the road. Teens are more likely to drive safely when they want to reach a certain destination at a certain time. Discourage “joyriding” or “cruising” in favor of purposeful driving.