Parents play a vital role in helping teens avoid accidents and become safe drivers. These key Habits to Have® will help you understand how to talk to teens about driving risks and responsibilities, and how to turn a teen driver into a safe driver.
Driver education begins as soon as a child is in a forward-facing car seat because they’re watching–and taking in–everything parents do when behind the wheel. If you don’t want your teen to text and drive, be sure your own phone is put away when you’re the driver.
Inexperience is the leading cause of teen crashes. Parents can help their teens get driving experience by letting them take the wheel as much as possible. If you need to run a quick errand, ask your teen to do the driving. Short jaunts can help teens gain confidence and learn how to handle different driving situations.
It’s important to be supportive and encourage teen drivers, no matter how white-knuckled you may be. If a dangerous situation does arise, wait until you are safely out of it to calmly talk to your teen about what happened and how they might have handled it differently.
Teens who never practice driving in slick, wet or snowy conditions won’t know how to handle those situations when they arise. Take your teen to a safe place, like a large, empty parking lot, to practice driving in adverse conditions.
Do you know how many passengers teen drivers are allowed to have in the car with them? What about the time teen drivers have to be off the road? Graduated drivers licensing (GDL) put restrictions on when and how teens can drive. GDL is the law, and if you have a teen driver, you need to know the GDL restrictions in your state. Learn about your state’s GDL.
Parents need to communicate with teens about the risks of driving, but also their expectations for their teen driver. Emphasize that driving rules are about safety, not controlling the teen or limiting his or her freedom. In a Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia survey, teens with authoritative parents reported that they are more likely to wear seat belts and less likely to speed.
A parent-teen driving agreement is a document that outlines a family’s driving rules (always wear a seat belt, never text and drive) and spells out consequences of violating those rules. Sitting down with your teen to discuss specific rules and consequences encourages conversation about safe driving, and also garners teen buy-in.
Before you know it, your teen will be grown and out of the house. View the time you spend teaching your teen to drive as valued "together time," rather than a nerve-wracking necessity. When else do you have a captive audience with your teen? Many parents find their teens opening up to them during that alone time, and find they grow closer as a result of the shared learning experience.