Ask any young teen what he or she most looks forward to and most of they will say: “The day I can start driving.” Unfortunately, parents don’t feel the same way about their children driving – and for good reason.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), auto crashes are the second leading cause of death for American teenagers. In 2019 alone, almost 2,400 teens between the ages of 13 and 19 lost their lives in car accidents — an average of seven teens a day.
The crash rate per mile driven for 16-19-year-olds is four times the rate for drivers 20 and older, according to statistics from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS). The risk is highest for 16-year-old drivers. The reason for these alarming statistics is not hard to understand. Inexperience coupled with poor judgment is a recipe for disaster. As a matter of fact, driver inexperience is the leading cause behind accidents involving young drivers. But inexperience is not the only issue putting teens at greater risk.
If you are a parent, understanding the risks and how teen drivers can avoid them is essential so do not be worried. Remember: Knowledge is power.
Here are a few useful tips to crash proof your teen driver.
1. Lay down the rules:
As a parent, you need to get ahead of the state. You care and you must show your teen that you do and that means you will have to impose certain rules.
Unfortunately, state traffic rules are often lacking when it comes to keeping your child safe. Do not allow your teen to get a full license at age 16 no matter how responsible your child may be. Stretch out the learner’s permit period until at least age 17. In addition, you might want to make use of the CDC’s Parent-Teen driving agreement template to hold productive conversations with your teen about driving responsibility.
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When you put everything in writing with the help of a teen driver contract, you will make your child understand that driving is not his or her birthright. Getting behind the wheel is a privilege earned and retained by exhibiting responsible behavior.
2. Limit night driving:
According to a 2003 IIHS report, driving between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. triples the risk of a fatal car accident for 16-year-old drivers. And according to the CDC, all drivers face increased risks after dark. When it comes to teens, however, it is important to remember that they lack the experience to handle the effects of fatigue and limited visibility. Additionally, most accidents where alcohol is a factor occur at night.
In order to ensure your teen is not being exposed to unnecessary dangers, keep your teen off the road after dark. Safety experts say that for at least the first six months, teen drivers should not be operating a car after 9 pm.
3. Limit the number of teen passengers:
The risk of a fatal crash doubles when a teen driver has a teen passenger. When there are three or more passengers, the risk is even higher due to distractions in the vehicle. Teens are also more likely to speed and to drive recklessly around their peers. In order to avoid accidents and make sure that your teen driver is properly trained, do not allow your teen driver to have any teen passengers onboard for at least the first six months he or she has a license.
4. Remind your teen to put safety first:
When talking to your teen about driving, remind him or her that drivers and passengers must be properly secured. Before firing up the engine, your teen driver must buckle up but talking about it alone is not enough. You, as a parent, must always buckle up to be a good role model for your teen
5. Provide proper Driver’s Education:
Your teen may look down on driver’s ed classes, but you should make it mandatory if he or she wants to drive. There is nothing like hands-on training, especially under the supervision of professionals. The experience, knowledge, and skill they will gain from this type of class are invaluable. You will be glad you did not let them skip it.
6. Pick a safe car for your teen:
Don’t worry about maneuverability. Buy a mid- to a large-size car that will keep your teen safe in the event of a crash. Do your research before you buy. Check the vehicle’s safety features, track record, and crashworthiness.
7. Practice, practice, practice:
For a teen driver, practice does make perfect. On average, parents should ride for at least 30 to 50 hours along their teen to help boost their confidence. Parents can also identify issues that the teen driver might have ignored.
8. Keep tabs on your teen driver:
According to Edmunds.com, research has shown that teens behave differently in cars when parents are not around. Seatbelt use plummets to less than 40 percent. Technology is on the side of parents, with options for in-car cameras and other real-time tracking devices. Make use of any tool you can to keep tabs on your child.
Remember, you are your child’s parent, not their best friend.
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