The idea of taking a two-ton, $25 thousand dollar piece of machinery and handing over the keys to a teenager to drive seems insane, I know! But they need to learn, form someone, and safely, too.
I receive many questions from anxious parents as their teens get their license and begin to use the family car. “What are appropriate limits to place on new teen drivers?” And, “How can I keep them safe behind the wheel?”
Parents are key
The greatest influence upon a newly minted teen driver is, not their peers, but you, as a parent.
Too many parents think that once their teen has completed driver’s ed, that their job is over. But according to statistics, that’s wrong, and tragically, sometimes deadly wrong. Setting appropriate limits of use of the family automobile, and how infractions are dealt with, is key.
Parents who adopt the attitude and say, “I trust my son or daughter to do the right thing, “sometimes regret this stance. Other parents, who control every move, who never let their teens drive anywhere, especially alone, also miss the mark. It’s a balance, a mix of allowable freedoms behind the wheel with crystal clear expectations and agreed beforehand consequences of when the automobile is used incorrectly, or illegally, is what works best.
Teen Driving Contract
Employ a Teen Driving Agreement with your teenager before they get behind the wheel. There are several, but I like the Triple A’s (AAA) model the best because it is the most balanced, with sections and sign-offs for the new teen driver, and for his/her parents. Here’s a link to the Teen Driving Agreement here.
The Center for Disease Control offers another good program called “Parents Are the Key.” In it, they state the “Eight Danger Zones” that are the most dangerous for teens. You can read each point in detail here, but the major points to be aware of are:
1. Driver inexperience
2. Driving with passengers
3. Nighttime driving
4. Not using seat belts!
5. Distracted driving
6. Drowsy driving
7. Reckless driving; which includes speeding, tailgating, not noticing other drivers
8. Impaired driving, principally drinking and driving
My kid always drives safely….right!
Parents should not assume that their son or daughter would never do any of these things. How they present to you around the house, or while you’re in the car while they’re driving, is not a sure-fire bet on how they act when they’re out about town.
Some people are surprised to learn or may wonder why the CDC would even have an extensive online section covering the known risks of teen driving. But they do and it’s excellent. Check it out here. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia also features extensive resources on this topic. And “Text-Arrest,” an online site detailing the dangers of texting while driving, was started not by law enforcement or a public awareness agency, but by a surgeon. And why does each of these organizations have these resources? Because each, within their respective professional disciplines, have seen far too many medical casualties and deaths resulting from teens who crash while texting or doing other dangerous behaviors.
Over a thousand teens die every day around the world in vehicle related accidents (according to Youth for Road Safety). That’s 1000 kids… think about it. If a thousand people were dying per day, but in one place, day after day, it would be front page news. But because they’re accidents, and spread out all over the world, we somehow let that slip off of our collective radars.
Because I work closely with many teens on a day to day basis, I hear, first hand, about some of things teens do behind the wheel, and it makes me wonder if the parents are paying any attention at all. So come on mom and dad, dig into this stuff, print out the contracts and discuss these issues with your sons and daughters. For the time it will take you, you just might save your child’s life, or that of another.