Teens in the midst of their driver education classes often feel a mix of nerves and excitement. After all, getting a driver’s license is considered a rite of passage, and they probably can’t wait to experience the freedom of the open road.
However, as a parent, you’re probably feeling far more nerves than excitement. And, sadly, you have good reason to be concerned. In fact, according to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of teen fatalities in the United States. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.
While it’s true that the technology in our vehicles has advanced to allow for safer driving, the number of distractions is also on the rise. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one in three teens who text admit they have sent text messages while driving.
The good news is there are measures parents can take to ensure their teens become responsible, safe drivers. First, choose a reputable teen driving school. You’ll also want to take an active role in their training and set very clear guidelines for their driving privileges with a parent-teen driving contract.
5 Ways Parents Can Set a Good Example for Teen Drivers
Also, remember that actions speak louder than words, and one step that is often overlooked when it comes to teen driver training is simply setting a good example. Here are a few tips parents should keep in mind when driving with their teens:
- Avoid distractions. Whether you’re picking your teen up from school or soccer practice, make sure you keep your eyes on the road – just like you expect them to do when they’re driving. If teens see their parents checking their phones, texting at a stoplight or fiddling with the navigation system, they will think these actions are just a normal part of driving.
- Follow standard safety procedures. Every time you get in the car with your teen, fasten your seatbelt, check your mirrors and seat position and put your cell phone away in a purse or glovebox. This helps instill a basic safety routine in your teen. While you may stress the importance of safe driving habits like buckling up and following the speed limit, if your teen sees you doing otherwise, they may not think you’re very serious about it.
- Keep your cool. Road rage is a leading cause of accidents in the United States. There’s no doubt that driving can be stressful, especially after a long day of work when you’re sitting in a traffic jam. Drivers who don’t pay attention, cut you off or run through red lights are a danger to everyone, but getting angry and venting your frustration through yelling or gestures won’t solve anything. And, remember that your teen is watching your actions. Take a deep breath, remain calm and do your best to get to your destination safely.
- Get practice time in regularly. Practice makes perfect, and your teen needs ample time in real life experiences behind the wheel to become a confident driver. Take them out on the highway so they get a chance to merge into traffic and in and out of lanes, allow them to drive when dusk is settling in, and let them experience driving in inclement weather like a rainstorm, all with your guidance. Getting a driver’s license is a lot of responsibility, and it’s important for your teen to realize they need all the training they can get.
- Keep vehicles well-maintained. Make sure your teen has a basic understanding of the care and maintenance involved with driving. After all, a well-maintained vehicle is a safe vehicle. Additionally, this will help them understand the costs involved with owning a car so they can be prepared.