If there's one thing that research points out, it's that teens are, literally, the worst drivers. According to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teenagers, and the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among teens aged 16-19 than among any other age group. So while your teen is probably thrilled to be driving, and you're probably thrilled to not be driving them everywhere, it's important to continue teaching them how to stay safe and smart on the road. Luckily, teenagers are stubborn but still pretty impressionable. Here are the most important things you can instill in your brand new teenage driver, and guidelines to have them follow.
Start slowly: A teenager with a brand new driver's license is even more likely to get into an accident than her slightly older counterparts. For the first few months, limit excursions to simple trips during the daytime with few or no passengers.
Wear a seatbelt: Despite all our warnings, many teenagers are going to get into accidents. Wearing a seatbelt greatly reduces their chance of death or serious injury if they do. The best way to instill this habit is to insist that your children wear a seatbelt 100 percent of the time, well before they become teenagers and for you to do it as well.
Don't text: Distracted driving has become just as deadly as driving while tired or intoxicated. Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that distraction was a factor in 58 percent of crashes involving teen drivers. Show your teen how to use smartphone settings for driving, and teach them never to text and drive, period.
Set rules about passengers: When it comes to driving with a teenager, not all passengers are created equal. Teens are much more likely to have an accident when they're transporting other teens. In addition, some provisional licenses have limits on the number or type of passengers a teen can drive with. Be crystal clear with your teen about who they can have in the car and under what circumstances, and don't be afraid to say no to letting them drive with certain friends.
Practice for peer pressure: When the risk is of looking uncool or not fitting in, it can be overwhelmingly hard for a teenager to say "no" to giving an obnoxious friend a ride home, making an extra stop, or to getting in the car with someone who has been drinking. Brainstorm and practice for these difficult situations so that your teen will be able to hold their boundaries and confidently say no when it really matters.
Make it safe to call: Your teen needs to know that, no matter what, they can call you for help if they get into a situation where they can't or don't want to drive.
Don't speed: Speeding and tailgating greatly increases the chance of an accident for a teen driver. Make sure your teen knows that getting there late is OK if it means getting there safe.
Respect road conditions: Driving at night or in bad weather are two high-risk scenarios for new, young drivers. Of course, it's important that your teen gets to practice in difficult conditions, but make sure they know to be extra-vigilant and that it's perfectly acceptable to wait for things to improve.
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