Five Safety Tips for Your New Teen Driver

The idea of teaching their child to drive makes many parents nervous, and understandably so. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, motor crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. However, the good news is that these accidents are highly preventable. You have the power to instruct your teen on how to be a safe driver, and the following tips will help both your own fear and that of your teen subside. 

Tip #1: Always, always wear a seatbelt!

Don’t hesitate to remind your child of the basics. The fundamentals of driving may seem like common sense to you, but peer pressure often leads teens to throw logic out the window. For example, teens tend to not wear their seatbelts when riding with other teens. A study conducted by the CDC in 2017 found that only 59% of teens reported always wearing their seatbelts when riding as passengers. Remind your child that actions have consequences and that wearing her seatbelt could be the difference between life or death.

Tip #2: Never get in the car with a drunk driver

When your teen starts driving, usually their friends start driving, too. In another 2017 study, 16.5% of high school students admitted to riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, just within the past month alone. Make sure to know your child knows to never get in the car with someone who has been drinking. Ensure she feels safe calling you or another trusted adult if ever placed in such a situation. Teens only become increasingly familiar with alcohol with age, so a thorough education on the dangers of drunk driving is important from the onset.

Tip #3: The text can wait

Another key reminder to your teen is just how dangerous it is to pull out her phone while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fifty-two percent of people killed in teen (15 to 19) distraction-affected crashes in 2017 were teens 15 to 19 years old. Advise your teen to avoid the temptation altogether, encouraging her to store her phone in a concealed spot, such as the center console. If she will be using her phone for navigation, consider getting her a hands-free phone holder for her dashboard. A study by Aceable Driving and Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that teens learn distracted driving habits from their parents. Make sure that you’re following the rules of the road and setting a good example for your teen. She looks up to you more than you likely realize!

Tip #4: Avoid overconfidence behind the wheel

The risk of crashing is particularly high in a teen’s first month after obtaining her license. This increased risk is attributed to the fact that young drivers do not have the same level of experience as their adult counterparts. For this reason, teen drivers often underestimate the severity of certain situations.  Some valuable advice to give your child to combat this learning curve is “if you think you can, don’t”—she should only make driving maneuvers that she knows are 100% safe. There’s never any harm until waiting until the next green arrow or waiting in the median for another 30 seconds.

Stress the importance of always knowing the ins-and-outs of her destination beforehand, meaning your teen should be familiar the directions and parking information beforehand. When driving to a new place, ask your teen to leave a cushion of time just in case she needs to make a U-turn. Driving requires flexibility and patience from teens, traits that may not be developed yet.

Tip #5: Be prepared for anything and everything

Make sure your teen’s ready to face any possible curveball. Although, you’d like to imagine that your child won’t be getting pulled over by a police officer any time soon, teach her how to pull over and stop safely. Let her know she can dial 911 to confirm the officer’s identity if she feels suspicious for any reason. Also, remind her that if she ever feels as if she’s being followed, or notices any other questionable behavior on the roads, to call 911 immediately. In the instance of hail, thunderstorms, or rain, encourage your teen to pull over into a secure location until the weather passes when possible. Knowing where to locate the insurance card and the number for roadside assistance is essential in case of emergency. Your teen should know exactly what to do if she ever gets pulled over or gets a flat tire by the first day she starts driving alone!

As a driver, you know that thousands of scenarios are possible. While you hope your child never faces the worst of them, make sure he or she is equipped just in case. Your teen lacks the same experience and intuition as you and other drivers on the road, so your advice during this impressionable time is highly important.

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