Helping Your Teen Become a Safe Driver

You never thought the day would come: your teen is licensed to get behind the wheel of a car. Once you’ve gotten over that shock, it’s time to prepare some tips you can teach your teen to become a safe driver.

Here’s a sobering stat for you: the leading cause of death for teens in the United States is motor vehicle crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In fact, seven teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 die every single day from injuries sustained in car accidents. For every mile driven, teen drivers are three times more likely than older drivers to be involved in a fatal accident. The good news is that these crashes can be prevented through driver safety training. Sure, your teen may have taken drivers’ ed classes and passed his road tests. However, safety begins at home. Impart these tips to your teen driver, keeping them safe while on the road.

Safety Talk
A big part of keeping your kids safe on the road is talking candidly with them about the dangers of distractions, such as music, eating and texting, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. As a parent, you should also clearly demonstrate the importance of controlling emotions while on the road to avoid situations like drag racing or road rage. Defensive driving lessons are key. Show your teen how to anticipate the actions and errors of other drivers on the road. Your child could be an extremely safe driver; however, they should be worried about other drivers and how best to handle their erratic behavior. Does your teen take any prescription medications for medical illness? If so, ask their physician if it’s OK for them to operate a vehicle while taking the medication.

Vehicle Checks
On a regular basis, give the car a once-over to ensure it’s operating in a safe condition. This means inspecting the brakes, kicking the tires, and ensuring emergency equipment is well-stocked, such as jumper cables and flashlights. The other part to this is to make sure your teen actually knows how to use those emergency preparedness items. Do they know how to set off a flare? What about change a tire on the side of the road? Get your teen a membership to an auto club so if they do break down, they can call for assistance or a tow. Make sure your teen has a cell phone on them in case of emergency, but let them know it’s only to be used when they’re stopped and never while driving.

Ground Rules
Before getting behind the wheel for the first time, instill in your teen the importance of following rules. Stress the importance of seat belt use for everyone who gets in the car, no exceptions. Prohibit the consumption of alcohol or drugs before getting behind the wheel. All you have to do to drive this one home is throw a few stats their way. For example, the CDC says that in 2010, 22 percent of drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 who got into a fatal motor vehicle crash had been drinking. Tell your teen where they are allowed to drive, such as to and from work, school, friends’ houses and the mall. Give curfews and expect them to be followed. Set up clear rules on what will happen when your teen violates any of your rules. This could be grounding for two weeks or it could involve taking a motor vehicle safety course. At the end of the day, make sure they knows these rules are in place not to cramp their style but to keep them alive.

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