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Help Your Teen Learn Safe Driving Habits

Posted on August 5, 2011

Summer is a time of fun in the sun, travel, parties, picnics, beach going, games, and more parties, and if your teenagers are driving, they will probably borrow your car and get where they’re going on their own.  Summer can also be one of the most dangerous times of the year for teenage drivers. More driving fatalities involving teens occur during the months of June, July, and August. In the period between Memorial Day and Labor for the years 2005-2009, the number of teen drivers and their passengers who died in car crashes was more than 7,300.

Imagine every one of those summer months, over the period covering those years, and picture this: Around 422 teenagers died in a traffic related accident. That is 422 deaths a month too many.

Teen drivers also suffer more fatal crashes—a figure that’s three times as high as older drivers. In teenagers’ first year of driving alone, their risk of having a crash is the greatest.

More free time during summer means teenagers have more opportunities to hang out with other teens, and drive places without adults. This could be a factor in the increased rate of driving-related fatalities for teens.

The doom and gloom of the statistics is alarming. Knowing that, what can you do about it?

Here are questions to ask yourself, based on tips from AAA, The Automobile Club of Southern California:

Do you know your teen? Just because a child turns 16, doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is ready to drive. Do you know your child’s level of maturity and responsibility?

Are you a good role model?  AAA states on their website that research reveals teenage drivers who are involved in collisions and receive traffic citations have parents who have driving records that are similar. Do you know the rules of the road, and do you follow them?

Have you found a good driving school for your teen? Find a driving school with instructors who spend a lot of time with their students and who have a lot of training. As a parent or guardian, you want to be involved and know about your child’s progress.

Do you have a driving agreement in writing with your teen? Driving is a privilege, not a right, even for adults. Meet with your teen to go over everything related to the privilege of driving, such as the rules he or she must follow, the conditions of driving, what kind of restrictions are in place, and the consequences of failing to keep to these commitments. Write this down in an agreement. The Auto Club has a parent-teen agreement on their website you can use for an example.

What kind of car is your teen driving? Choose the safest car among your family vehicles for your teen to drive.

Are you spending time in the car with your teen behind the wheel? Teen drivers need practice, and you can help by supervising driving opportunities.

Have you restricted your teen driver from having passengers and from driving at night?  This might not seem realistic to you, since teens, like most people, enjoy the company of others, and doing activities in the evening. But research from AAA reveals that the chance of a teen driver crashing is twice as likely with passengers, and crash rates for teen drivers rise at night. Most crashes involving teens happen between 9:00 p.m. and midnight.

Have you discussed distracted driving with your teen? No one should drive while distracted. Discuss this with your teen. At no time should a teen driver, or anyone else for that matter, talk on a cell phone or send a text message while driving. Hands-free devices eliminate the need for a driver to look at or hold a cell phone, but studies show that even these devices draw a driver’s attention away from driving.

Be involved. Let’s keep teens safe on the road. We want all our young people to have a future.

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