October 14-October 20th is National Teen Driver Safety Week!
This is an exciting yet scary time in our household. Our oldest daughter is in HIGH SCHOOL! She has made many friends, is doing great in her classes and is slowly but surely talking about the one thing she knows I am scared about: getting her learner’s permit.
The statistics on teen driving are pretty scary. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, seven teens ages 16 to 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries in 2010.
As parents it is important to ask: Is my teen “ready” to drive?
- Does your teen show good judgment in general?
- Is your teen able to resist peer pressure when it comes to risky behavior?
- Is your teen willing to follow not only state driving laws but also your rules?
- Does your teen seem comfortable and confident behind the wheel?
Many parents believe that their role in their teen’s driving ends as soon as he/she receives a driver’s license. In fact, this is precisely the time when your supervision is crucial. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.
As parents our first concerns are probably about speed and drinking and driving but there are some other critically important factors we must keep in mind. Here are some important tips that I learned and would like to share with you:
- If your state has a graduated driver licensing law, make sure you know what it is. This law applies to teen drivers and sometimes has stipulations on phone usage, texting and other restrictions that you may need to learn.
- Do not allow your teenager to drive with other teen passengers in the car until he or she is experienced behind the wheel. The presence of other teens in the car greatly increases the risk of a crash and the risk increases with each additional passenger.
- Practice driving skills with your teen. Do not assume they will know how to ride at night, in the rain or on the interstate. Mix the regular routine up and make them practice in different conditions till they are confident in their ability and more importantly you are confident that they can keep themselves and others on the roadway safe!
- Establish a parent teen driving contract with your teen.This driving contract will help parents and teens focus on safe driving habits. Parents and teens should sit down and discuss these recommendations. This way everyone knows the rules and sticks to them.
- Do not allow your teenager to use a cell phone or similar device while driving. Talking on the phone, even hands-free, increases the risk of a crash, too. Sign a family pledge.
- Be a good role model. Do not expect your teen to follow a rule you are not willing to follow yourself. Your teen is learning by watching your behavior behind the wheel.
I have certainly learned a lot in this process! If I have to spend a little bit more time working with my daughter to make sure she is a confident driver then it is worth the wait.
What discussions have you had with your teen about driving?
By Purnima Unni, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Coordinator