Teens are new, excited drivers, ready to get out and hit the open road with their friends. They’ve reached a new level of independence, and if you’ve been shuttling your children from activity to activity, you might be ready to hand over the keys and bask in some of your own newfound free time! However, before your teen gets behind the wheel, it’s important to establish some ground rules and help them create a good foundation for safe driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death among 15 to 20 year olds in the United States. Two out of three of those deaths are teens who were simply passengers in a car driven by one of their peers. This is why it’s so critical to set the standard for safe driving early on. Teaching your teen safe driving habits isn’t just good parenting; it can actually save the life of your child and others on the road.
Help Your Teen Practice the Right Way
Start out by having your teen drive slowly in a safe area, like an empty parking lot or quiet residential street, before allowing them to get out on the busier roads. Let them start and stop, back up, and make turns to get a feel for how the car handles. Practice these skills one at a time so they can build up confidence. Keep initial lessons short, about twenty minutes. This will help ease the frustration you both feel when inevitable mistakes are made! As they improve, lengthen the practice sessions to an hour, and drive at different times of the day and in different types of weather if possible.
Some tips for instructing your teen driver:
- Put a “Student Driver” sign in your back window to alert other drivers to have patience and hopefully give your teen some extra space and consideration.
- Stay calm. Driving lessons can be frustrating for teen and parent. Expect your child to make mistakes. Use the opportunity to correct them without yelling or berating them.
- When serious mistakes are made, pull off the road and talk calmly about what was done wrong and make sure the teen knows how the maneuver should’ve been done.
- Be aware of some of the common problems new drivers encounter, like drifting in the lanes, following cars too closely, not checking blind spots, and watching for pedestrians and parked vehicles. If they forget some of these protocols, be sure to gently but firmly remind them.
- Set a good example! Teens will be influenced over the course of their lifetimes by observing how their parents drive. When your teen is in the car and you are driving, it’s important to drive safely and adhere to traffic rules so that they model their own driving habits after yours. Also – always buckle up and insist that they do the same.
Probably the most important thing to remember when teaching your teen how to drive is to keep the communication ongoing and non-judgmental. Of course, if they are doing or about to do something that endangers yourselves or others, then you may need to be forceful and loud to get their immediate attention and avert a crash or injury. But in general, if your child is not endangering anyone, then raising your voice over their mistakes will likely only make your teen more nervous, which can further impair their ability to drive with confidence.
Set Some Ground Rules
As you embark on this experience together, sit down and have a talk about your expectations and set some ground rules:
Limit the number of passengers allowed in the car: Teens often want to ride around town together, and those that can drive are often eager to act as chauffeur for friends who can’t, but be aware that passengers can be a major distraction, especially for teens. Until your child has more experience driving, limit the number of friends allowed in the car at any one time.
Limit night driving: Driving at night can present more risks for all drivers, but especially to teens. In fact, the number of fatal crashes for teens at night is almost double those that occur during daytime hours. Talk to your teen about having a “car curfew”, especially during the first few months of solo driving.
Have a serious talk about driving under the influence: Even though teens can’t buy or possess alcohol legally, the NHTSA states that one-fourth of teen deaths from car crashes were due to the driver being under the influence. Make sure that your teen knows that if they or the driver they are with have been drinking, they should call you or another trusted adult for a ride, and will not be punished for doing so.
Make the consequences for breaking the rules very clear: Set the rules for driving early and explain what the consequences will be if they are broken. Many parents even have their teens sign a contract to remind them that driving is a privilege that can easily be revoked.
DriveTeam offers comprehensive training programs for teen drivers. Our Teen Driving Programs will teach those new to the road the skills they need to be safe drivers for life. Contact us for more information.