According to the Allstate Foundation, 4,000 teens die in automobile accidents every year in the United States. Accidents are the leading cause of death of US teens, and over 60% of those deaths happen while another teen is behind the wheel. The most devastating part of this is that most of the accidents are preventable.
Know the Laws
Every state has different laws for teen drivers. There are restrictions on cell phone usage, passengers and curfews. Knowing the laws can help you identify where to start on setting limits for your new driver. Remember that just because the law says one thing, that doesn’t mean that is where your jurisdiction ends. Being more stringent about the rules for your teen, and letting them progress gradually to lesser restrictions, will help them become safe, responsible drivers. (Photo by djuggler, Flickr )
Instill a No Cell Rule
Most states encourage, if not require, drivers who use a cell phone to also use a hands-free device while driving. Studies show that whether drivers are using the hands free device or not, the act of being in a conversation can be distracting enough to cause an accident. This is even more likely for a teenager with little experience driving. Teens should turn off their cell phones while they are driving. As much your teen may promise never to use their phone while driving, an audible ring is too tempting for most to resist.
Some teens will argue that a phone that is turned off and put away somewhere will not be accessible in an emergency. Remind them that a phone in a purse in the trunk or in the glove compartment will be much easier to find if there has been an accident than one that was in the driver’s lap or being held in his or her hand. Even a minor accident will shake the contents of the car violently enough to put a cell phone out of reach. (Photo by cjc4454, Flickr )
Limit the Number of Passengers
The more passengers that there are in a vehicle, the more likely a teen is to be distracted. New drivers should not be allowed to transport other teens when they first begin driving. After several months of responsible driving, allow your adolescent to transport one addition teen in the vehicle. This not only gives teen drivers the opportunity to increase responsibility slowly, but also the ability to recognize how another person in the car can be a distraction. Hopefully this recognition will help continue their responsible driving.
Set a Driving Curfew
Many cities and states have their own curfews set for teens. The later at night that a teen drives, the more likely he or she is to be in an accident. This is especially true after midnight. It can help parents to remember that a driving curfew and a regular curfew do not have to be the same time. However, parents may want to take into account who will be driving if the teen is not.
As much as new drivers love to practice and show off their driving skills, it is okay to say no sometimes. Volunteer to drive your teen’s group of friends somewhere so that none of them is responsible for transporting a large number of other teens, especially if the event happens during evening hours.
Set Consequences and Stick to Them
Teen drivers need to know that just because they feel the freedom that comes with a driver’s license, doesn’t mean that they can be completely free to do as they please. If your teen gets a ticket, making them pay the fines from their own pocket while their driving privileges are revoked may sound harsh. However, responsibility is not the only lesson to be gained here. Teens need to understand that lives are in their hands when they are in control of the wheel.
Setting limits and sticking to the consequences when those limits are broken is an important part of learning responsibility. If your teen breaks a rule and you remind them of the cost of breaking that rule, expect anger, frustration, arguing, bargaining and begging. Whatever you do, do not give in. (Photo by intothelense4149, Flickr)
It may sometimes seem like a little thing, to concede to your teen and let them have their way. However, the next time your child has to make a decision between keeping and breaking the rules, you do not want them to think that you will give in anyway if they get caught.
Sticking to your set consequences this time could mean the difference between life and death next time.