Keeping teen drivers safe on the road
Ask any parent. One of the scariest things about raising a child may be letting him or her drive. With proms, graduations, and beach trips, you may feel more nervous than ever about your child's safety on the road—and with good reason. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), teen driving may be the greatest risk someone will ever face. The chance of a car crash is at a lifetime high in the first two years of driving.
Why is this? Teen drivers do not have experience. They don't notice and respond to possible driving problems. They don't control the car well, especially at high speeds. Teens also tend to take chances. They tend to give in to peer pressure. They may overestimate their abilities. They may have mood swings. They are easily distracted. All these factors can increase their risk of accidents.
The good news
There is good news, though. Based on the principles of Graduated Driver Licensing, adopted by most states, the NSC has put together some guidelines. Their Family Guide to Teen Driver Safety may help reduce driving risks for teenagers.
The NSC says the best way to improve driving safety is to work together. They suggest writing a Parent/Teen Agreement. It should set clear expectations for everyone. You and your teen should list:
- privileges, such as getting the family car for a Friday night football game or a Saturday trip to the mall;
- restrictions, such as obeying a curfew, or driving with only one passenger; and
- things your teen must do to show you he or she is ready for more driving independence.
Other things to consider
- Know and follow your state's requirements for teen driving.
- Select a safe vehicle, based on factors like size and safety features. (Visit the NSC website for tips.)
- Note that the two conditions that make driving more dangerous for teenagers are:
- driving with passengers, and
- driving at night.
- Insist that your teen engage in safe behaviors (and follow them yourself), such as:
- wearing a seatbelt,
- not drinking and driving,
- not talking or texting on a cell phone while driving,
- not eating or drinking while driving,
- not speeding, and
- not driving when tired or while taking medication.
- Make sure your teen gets a lot of driving practice before getting a license.
Make an impact
You can make an impact on your teen's driving safety. Sit down with your teenager and write up a contract you all can live with—especially behind the wheel.
Resource: Laurie Sammeth, contributing writer, myOptumHealth