Getting a driver’s license for the first time is an exciting rite of passage for teens but a source of great anxiety for their mothers. While most teenagers can’t wait to get behind the wheel of a car, many parents are worried about the grim accident statistics often cited for young drivers.
There is reason for concern: teens are involved in three times the number of fatal car accidents as other drivers. However, concerned moms can help their children to become safe drivers by teaching these lessons before their teens take the driving test:
1. Buckle up. Lessons learned early in life have staying power when a child ages. Insist that your children never ride without buckling their seat belts while growing up, and remind them of the importance of that practice again when they begin learning to drive. Set an example by always buckling up yourself. Nearly 60 percent of teen drivers who lost their lives in car crashes in 2011 were not wearing seat belts.
2. Don’t be a taxi cab. The risk of teen fatalities increases when 16- and 17-year-old drivers have passengers in the car to distract them, according to a study by the American Automobile Association (AAA). Parents can help keep young drivers safer by not allowing them to drive with other passengers in their cars. Warn your teens to avoid other kinds of “distracted driving” as well, including adjusting the radio or snacking.
3. Put away the cell phone. Many studies have shown that cell phones and safe driving don’t mix. Texting while driving is not only hazardous, it is also illegal in many states. Moms have a responsibility to remind their teens of the dangers and of the laws. Parents also should avoid sending mixed signals to their children by making sure they also never call or text while driving.
4. Don’t drink and drive. More than 9800 people were killed in drunken driving accidents in 2011. Although most teens likely have been warned about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, many young people believe these problems won’t happen to them. Parents can reinforce the lessons by having frank conversations with their teens before allowing them get a driver’s license. Set a good parental example by never driving while impaired and always having a designated driver.
5. Make a pact. Good and bad driving behavior should have consequences. AAA recommends that parents develop both a set of driving rules and a set of penalties for teens when they break the rules. The problems mentioned above — cell phones, seat belts, alcohol use – can be part of this parent-child pact. The guidelines also can include rules about driving in bad weather or checking in with parents. Check out this sample teen driver agreement: http://teendriving.aaa.com/files/file/Parent.Teen.Driving.Agreement.pdf
6. Prepare for an emergency. Make sure teens have an emergency kit in the trunk of the car they will be driving. Jumper cables, a flashlight, and first-aid items can be a big help if the car breaks down or is in an accident. Suggest that your teen also carry a blanket, rain gear, or a coat in the trunk in case of a breakdown in bad weather.
Even though teens may pretend not to care, a mother’s opinion does make a difference. Support your new teen driver by applauding good driving habits and helping them to correct bad ones. Your involvement could be the thing that keeps your child safe.