Teenagers just learning to drive can be a time filled with excitement and nervousness for both parents and teens. For many adults, it may be the first time they have ever taught someone to drive. Helping teens become more confident and responsible behind the wheel is something all parents hope to achieve.
The statistics on teen drivers are sobering. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 3,000 teens die annually in crashes. This puts a lot of pressure on parents who may not feel like safety experts. Even if you aren’t sure where to begin, this doesn’t have to be stressful. There are many things you can do to help your teen become a safer driver.
Parents Are the Key to Safe Teen Drivers
Educate Yourself First
One of the best ways you can help your teen become a safer driver is to revisit some of the things they’ll be learning yourself. Enroll in an online safety class so that when your teen has questions along the way, you’ll be able to answer them confidently. After driving for decades, some things are just second nature. Going through even a brief online course can be a good reminder of how much new information a new driver has to remember at once.
Eliminate Distracted Driving
Many distractions can present themselves while on the road. Cell phones are among the top of the list. The unfortunate truth is that many of these distracted behaviors children have learned by watching their parents. One of the top things parents can do is set a good example by silencing their phone and putting it away and out of reach in a center console or glove box while driving.
Many situations will be new to teens once they are in the driver’s seat. Open communication is key to anything on the road or off. Please talk with your teens about peer pressure when they are behind the wheel. Role-play some scenarios they may face with friends and teach them how to set boundaries with those they may be transporting.
There is a tremendous amount of pressure for teens to be liked by their peers and their parents. Things as simple as asking that a passenger not turn up the radio to more significant issues of transporting someone who has been drinking are all real-life possibilities. Be honest, accepting, and create a safe, non-judgemental space for them to talk with you. It’s crucial that they feel empowered to communicate.
Driver education doesn’t have to end when they leave the DMV. Please continue to practice driving with your teen even after they have gotten their license. Additional experience driving in snow, rain, different traffic conditions, or at night gives them a chance to expand their skills.
As a new driver, they may not have had the opportunity to experience these conditions first hand during their driver training. It will help you both become more confident and help you bond in the process.
Look into courses beyond the basics to help your teen enhance their skills. Organizations like Ford Driving Skills For Life, B.R.A.K.E.S., and others sponsor free or low-cost programs that go beyond necessary road skills. Ask around in your community to see what local resources may be available. Many vehicle insurance companies offer teen driving safety programs, as well. Signing them up may even offer them a discount on their insurance.
Don’t Drive When Emotions Are Heightened
We are fortunate to live in an era where mental health is less of a stigma. It is increasingly important that we address this when teens are beginning to drive as many situations on the road can cause anxiety or panic. Offering some guidance before it happens can be a real help in the event of an emergency.
Encourage teens to pay attention to their thoughts and feelings. Anytime they feel uneasiness is an excellent time to pull over into a safe area. Take a deep breath and wait 60 seconds before doing anything. If they are still feeling anxious, have them retrieve their cell phone from the storage area, and give a parent a call or text. This will allow you to help reassure them and talk them through any uncertainty.