10 tips to help your teen be a safe driver
When teenagers get in the driver’s seat, many factors come into play: inexperience, overconfidence, heightened emotions, and distractions.
Here’s how parents can help tilt the odds in the teen’s favor. Many of these tips aren’t just good advice – they’re the law:
- Learn and enforce graduated licensing laws. Studies show that graduated licensing works. It prevents collisions and saves lives. But you must know Washington’s or Oregon’s laws to enforce them. Take an active role.
- Set limits on when and where your teen can drive. Limit nighttime driving, which poses a higher risk – especially Friday and Saturday nights. Consider activity-based curfews (e.g., rather than “Be home at 10,” say “Be home once the movie ends”). Set a geographic area in which he or she can drive; anything beyond that requires permission.
- Limit the number of passengers. Fatality rates jump when peers ride along. Of all distractions, other passengers are the biggest distraction your teen can face.
- Insist on seat-belt use. Teens tend to use seat belts less often than older drivers and passengers – only 38% use seat belts each time they get in a car. Stress the importance of using seat belts and how they save lives.
- Insist that your teen follows all traffic laws. Instill good habits early.
- Supervise your teen’s driving. Ride with your teen as often as possible to ensure he or she becomes skilled.
- Set an example. Teens are much more likely to follow the rules of the road if they see their parents do so. If you want teens to drive safely and obey speed limits, make sure you do the same.
- Establish expectations and consequences. Use the rewards or consequences you think will motivate your child. Consider signing a teen-driving contract, and reward responsibility.
- Choose a safe car. Encourage your child to be practical rather than popular. Don't automatically choose a car that's small and inexpensive – consider one with the best safety features and crash protection.
- Discourage cell-phone use. Although debate continues about the risk of hand-held versus hands free cell phones, most authorities agree that all cell phones distract drivers. And they're most dangerous for beginning teen drivers.
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.