It’s a time many parents dread: Their child is now 16 and very eager to drive himself, and maybe a few friends, to school. Here are some tips on what parents can do to help their teen get through this milestone safely.
It’s a time many parents dread: Their child is now 16 and very eager to drive himself, and maybe a few friends, to school.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than 1 in 3 deaths in this age group, parental concern is warranted.
Here are some tips on what parents can do to help their teen get through this milestone safely.
Know your teen. The Allstate Foundation, which has a Teen Safe Driving program, suggests you determine whether your teen shows good judgment in general before allowing him the privilege to drive. Is your teen able to resist peer pressure when it comes to participating in risky or harmful behavior? Is your teen willing to follow your rules and driving laws? Is the teen comfortable and self-assured behind the wheel? If the answers are no, it may be better to wait until the teen is ready for this responsibility.
Talk to your teen. Having a one-on-one conversation is a critical safety step for parents and their young drivers, says Allstate spokeswoman Kate Hollcraft. The National Safety Council adds that parents should convey there could be far worse consequences than financial ones in the event of an accident.
Enforce limits. Mothers Against Drunk Driving warns parents that the chances of a fatal car crash increase with each additional passenger in the car. Limit the number of passengers your teen can drive to school so your teen driver has fewer distractions. MADD also notes there are more teen driving accidents at night and on weekends, so you may want to limit driving to days only.
Create a parent-teen driving contract. “Each family needs to determine the best rules to keep their teen safest on the road, based on the individual teen and their driving environment,” Hollcraft says. “For many families, a parent-teen driving contract is a convenient tool that makes it easier to talk about driving rules and consequences for breaking those rules.” The contract should include the teen’s key responsibilities and the consequences if they aren’t met. Periodically updating the contract provides the family with extra opportunities to discuss responsible driving, Hollcraft said.
Know the basics. Re-enforce such rules as no cellphone use while driving, always use the seatbelt, follow the speed limit, be home by your curfew time and no drinking alcohol, the National Safety Council advises.
Follow the Graduated Drivers License Law. Most states offer graduated driver licensing, which phases in privileges for new drivers. For instance, in some states, beginning drivers are not allowed to drive at night or with teen passengers in their vehicle. Only when they have gained experience are they allowed to “graduate” to drive in these more risky situations. Be aware of the laws in your state and make sure your teens obey them. GDL programs prevent about 1 in 5 crashes for 16-year-old drivers, according to MADD.