Despite what you may be feeling at this point in your child’s life, they DO care what you think.
- 59% of high school aged drivers indicated their parents had the greatest influence on their driving.
Don’t rely solely on driver education. High school driver education may be the most convenient way to learn skills, but it doesn’t necessarily produce safer drivers. Poor skills aren’t always to blame. Teen attitudes and decision-making matter as much or more. Young people naturally tend to rebel. Teens often think they’re immune to harm, so they don’t use safety belts as much, and they deliberately seek thrills like speeding. Training and education don’t change these tendencies. Peer influence is strong but parents have much more influence than they typically get credit for.
Know the law. Become familiar with restrictions on beginning drivers. Enforce the rules.
Establishing a contract clearly defining driving expectations for your household has been shown to work:
Restrict night driving. Most young drivers’ nighttime fatal crashes occur from 9 p.m. to midnight, so teens shouldn’t drive much later than 9. The problem isn’t just that such driving requires more skill. Late outings tend to be recreational, and even teens who usually follow the rules can be easily distracted or encouraged to take risks.
Restrict passengers. Teen passengers in a vehicle can distract a beginning driver and/or lead to greater risk-taking. Because young drivers often transport their friends, there’s a teen passenger problem as well as a teen driver problem. While night driving with passengers is particularly lethal, many fatal crashes with teen passengers occur during the day. The best policy is to restrict teenage passengers, especially multiple teens, all the time.
Supervise practice driving. Take an active role in helping your teenager learn how to drive. Plan a series of practice sessions in a wide variety of situations, including night driving. Give beginners time to work up to challenges like driving in heavy traffic or on the freeway.
Supervised practice should be spread over at least six months and continue even after a teenager graduates from a learner’s permit to a restricted or full license.
Remember that you’re a role model. New drivers learn a lot by example, so practice safe driving. Teens with crashes and violations often have parents with poor driving records.
Require safety belt use. Remember, even if your 16-year-old wears their seat belt when you are in the car, they may not when they are alone or out with friends. Remember that belt use is lower among teenagers than older people. Insist on belts all the time. The same can be said for prescription and illegal drugs.
Prohibit drinking. Make it clear that it’s illegal and highly dangerous for a teenager to drink alcohol. Even small amounts of alcohol are impairing for teens.
Choose vehicles for safety, not image. Teenagers should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of a crash and offer protection in case they do crash. For example, small cars don’t offer the best protection in a crash. Avoid cars with performance images that might encourage speeding. Avoid trucks and sport utility vehicles — the smaller ones, especially, are more prone to roll over.