One of the scariest moments of being a parent comes when your child gets behind the wheel of a car for the first time. In one way, you are pleased for your teen, because being able to drive will give them more freedom and independence. However, in the back of your mind, you are terrified because teen drivers are not known for being the safest and smartest behind the wheel.
One of the leading causes of teen death is car crashes. For any parent letting their teen drive for the first time, the statistics on teen crashes is unsettling, to say the least. This data is why you need to make sure that you have a conversation with your kids about the importance of driving responsibly.
Your teen needs to know that driving is a privilege and a license comes with responsibility. If you don’t know where to start, here are a few pointers that should help you get the message across.
Top 10 safety tips for parents of new teen drivers!
Explain they are responsible for other road users
Your teen must know that they are responsible not only for their own safety, but the safety of others, including passengers, drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Hopefully, this will make them think more carefully before making any rash decisions while controlling a car or in the passenger seat.
Teach them about the dangers
Since driving is so common, it feels like it is a safe thing to do. Actually, many dangers come with driving. Although you shouldn’t make your teen scared to drive, they should know that dire consequences can happen if they do not listen to safety tips. Talk with your teenager about car crash statistics and the situations that cause accidents. Tell your teen you understand the thrill of driving and how exhilarating things like drift cars and road trips with friends can be, but make sure they know the consequences of distracted driving.
Talk about phone use
One of the most common causes of teen car accidents is phone use. Teens are so used to being so connected all the time that they can find it hard to switch off. However, that is exactly what they must do when they are at the wheel. Let them know what can happen when they take their eyes off the road. If your teen needs to stay connected via smartphone, teach them how to use hands-free calls to contact someone. Ideally, they should switch their phones off while they’re driving, so they cannot be distracted by their phone’s siren call.
Another possibility is to limit smartphone use in general – let’s face it, our iPhones and Androids are attached to our hips. The same can be said for teenagers who constantly are posting on Snapchat and Instagram. By limiting smartphone use in daily life, you can help reduce the chances of your teen grabbing their phone while driving.
Instead, consider having a non-smartphone in the car only for emergency use. If you don’t want your teen to drive without being able to reach you, having a “car phone” is a good way to limit texting and app use while behind the wheel.
Lastly, teens may make the argument they need their phone for directions. If your car does not have a built-in GPS navigation system, buying a portable navigation system can help quell your worries about them getting lost while on the road.
Be wary of cruise control
Although cruise control is not very popular while driving in cities and suburbs, it may be tempting to use your cruise control while on a long stretch of highway for miles and miles. Although adults are familiar with this technology, it may be too advanced for teens to use when they are new at controlling their cars.
Furthermore, ensure you stress the importance of not having cruise control switched on while in non-highway scenarios. Lastly, discuss with your teen about being aware of your outside elements while using cruise control – if it is raining, the cruise control should be switched off immediately. If you have cruise control on while the roads are slippery and wet, it can lead to an increased risk of a crash.
Set ground rules
Make it abundantly clear that driving is a privilege. If you find out your teen has been abusing that privilege in any way, consider taking measures that restrict driving time or restrict driving altogether. Teens are far more likely to drive safely if they feel like their freedom could be withdrawn – the last thing a ‘cool teenager’ wants is to have his mom drive him around!
Teach your kids the reality of driving, and the dangers it can pose – chances are they will listen and stay safe on the roads.
Enroll in a defensive driving course
Okay, we know your teen is already busy with going to school every day, attending baseball practice after school, and heading to sports tournaments on the weekend. The last thing they might want is to have to spend any extra time learning about road safety tips. Even though your teen may fight you on this, there is nothing more important than their safety on the road – and the safety of others.
By learning about defensive driving, your teenager can make smart decisions while in stressful situations behind the wheel. Enrolling in a defensive driving course teaches your teen safety tips, thinking on their feet while in the car, and important information about the car model they will be driving.
Keep your hands on the steering wheel
Teens love to listen to music while they are driving. Whether with friends or going solo, singing and listening to the hottest hits on the radio right now is always fun. However, teach your teenager to leave the radio alone – you don’t need to immediately switch a song that comes on if you are focusing on the road. While your teen’s hands are not on the steering wheel, events can happen in a split second that requires immediate attention and quick reflexes.
First thing is first – buckle your seat belt
Tell your teenager that they need to buckle their seatbelt before they even put their hands on the steering wheel or on the gear shift. Instruct them to tell everyone else in the car to put their seat belts on as well. Even though their friends may think it is ‘cool’ to ride without a seatbelt, speak with your teen about the repercussions of not wearing a seatbelt when it comes to an accident. Thousands of deaths per year can be prevented by wearing a seatbelt.
Follow the speed limit
We have all done it – you’re driving down a back road, and the speed limit sign says 35, but you’re doing 50 miles per hour. No one else is on the road, you need to get home from work, and the speed limit feels too slow. However, if your teenager is in the car with you while you speed, chances are they will take risks as well. Teach your teen the importance of obeying the speed limit at all times – it is there for a reason.
Someone will forgive you for being late – but you can’t ‘take back’ an accident
Lastly, stress the importance of how being late is better than being in an accident. Tell your teen their friends will quickly forget if they are a few minutes late to a movie, but the teen will never forgive themselves if they cause a damaging accident that hurts other people.
Talking to teenagers about safe driving can save lives
Even though you may think your teen has heard it all from their teachers, driver’s education instructors, and their friends, speaking with your teenager one-on-one is absolutely necessary to stress the importance of car safety. Along with being a good passenger while in their friend’s cars, like wearing their seatbelt and not being distracted, learning the basic road safety tips is essential to keeping themselves and their passengers safe.