The answer may surprise you, but the people who bear the most significant impact on a teen’s driving are his or her parents.
The question is, then, how does a parent best use that power? Let’s take a look at the areas where parents can put into place strategies that have been shown to save the lives of teen drivers.
Key Risk Factors for Teen Drivers
Because the first year is the riskiest for teen drivers, parents need to continually create opportunities to teach their teen driver. Teens need to spend at least six months practicing driving before they are allowed to drive on their own. Make sure that this practice takes into account how driving changes throughout the day or during different weather conditions. Furthermore, teach teens how to be aware of pedestrians, cyclists, other vehicles, and even roadway debris.
- Teen Passengers
Many states’ graduated drivers licensing rules often prohibit teen drivers from having more than one teenage passenger. If your state doesn’t have a similar prohibition, consider implementing this rule yourself and maintaining it for at least half a year.
- Driving After Dark
Driving at night increases the risk of death for all drivers, but teens are at even more risk. Reduce the risk by not allowing your teen to drive at night until you have practiced with them. Then, institute a curfew for night time driving if this is not already a requirement of your state’s GDL system.
- Not Wearing Seat Belts
All things being equal, wearing seat belts is the single greatest way to reduce risk of death in car accident. Require that your teen wear a seatbelt on every car ride, whether they are the driver or passenger. (Ideally, this habit should be acquired through childhood, but it’s never too late to start.)
- Driving While Distracted
In 2015, distracted driving accounted for more than 3,000 deaths and almost 400,000 injuries. Come up with strategies for how your teen will avoid using mobile devices, talking on the phone (even hands free), eating and drinking, and other distractions while driving.
- Driving While Sleepy
New research suggests that driving when you’re drowsy can be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Limit driving in the early morning or late at night, and take care to know when your teen is unusually tired.
- Reckless Driving Behavior
Discourage your teen from using a vehicle to engage in risky behaviors such as racing, peeling out, or other acrobatic car behaviors. Furthermore, impress up on them the need to maintain a safe distance between other vehicles, motorcycles, and bicycles in case of the need to stop suddenly.
- Driving While Intoxicated
Communicate to your teen that having even one drink can increase his or her risk of dying in a motor vehicle accident. Every US state has laws prohibiting teens from having any level of alcohol in their blood while driving, so impress up on them that there are legal and financial consequences to driving while impaired.
Addressing these eight risk factors will go a long way to ensuring that your teen’s risk of injury or death from a motor vehicle accident is reduced. Consider using the CDC’s parent-teen driving agreement contract to set expectations for your teen’s driving behavior.