Six tips to help keep your teen driver safe

Parents who get rattled by sobering news stories about teen-driving accidents often ask, "What can I do to keep my child safe?"

We often stress two points in particular: Actively ensure your family follows the graduated-licensing law, and consider setting your own "house rules" appropriate for your teen driver's developing skills and maturity.

A key risk often noted for teen drivers is that the fatality rate jumps when peers ride along. Car crashes are not uncommon for teenagers, who are four times as likely to die in a car accident than all other age groups combined.

Here’s how parents can help put the odds in your teen’s favor.

1. Set limits on when and where your teen can drive. Nighttime driving poses a higher risk – especially Friday and Saturday nights. Limit nighttime driving. Set a geographic area in which he or she can drive; anything beyond that requires permission.

Washington and Oregon laws will help you with that. Teens who hold an intermediate license cannot, for the first six months of their license, operate a motor vehicle that carries any passengers under age 20 who are not members of the driver’s immediate family. For the remaining time, the driver can't operate a vehicle that carries more than three passengers who are under age 20 who are not family. Additionally, the holder of an intermediate license cannot operate a motor vehicle between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. in Washington and midnight and 5 a.m. in Oregon except when the driver is accompanied by a parent, guardian, or a licensed driver who is at least age 25.

2. Limit the number of passengers in the car. The likelihood of an accident increases with the number of distractions. Other passengers are the biggest distraction your teen can face.

3. Insist on seat belt use. Teens tend to use seat belts less often than older drivers and passengers – only 38% use seat belts every time they get in a car. Stress the importance of seat belt use and how it saves lives.

4. Insist your teen follow all traffic laws. Instill good habits early.

5. Supervise your teen’s driving. Ride with your teen as often as possible to ensure he or she becomes skilled.

6. Set an example. Teens are much more likely to follow the rules of the road if they see their parents do so.

by  Jon Osterberg

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