3. GET TOUGH AT HOME
Even if your state has weak laws, you can still set the rules for your own teen. “You’re the parent,” says AAA’s McNaull. “You control when your child gets licensed, you control the keys, and you control the car. You can put significant conditions in place.”
Start by making sure your teen always wears a seat belt. “It’s the single most effective safety device in your car,” says Nason. But more than half of teen drivers killed on the road in 2006 weren’t buckled up.
You can also lay down your own phase-in law. Set your teen’s night driving limit to no later than 10 p.m., don’t allow more than one passenger, and ban cell phones-even with a headset. “Using a phone with a headset is of no benefit to an inexperienced driver,” says University of Utah researcher David Strayer.
If your teen balks? Too bad, says Arthur Kellermann, MD, an emergency room physician who’s also an injury-prevention researcher at Emory University and the father of a 20-year-old. “This is tough love,” he says.
Nicole Nason agrees: “Every time you say, ‘You don’t start this car without a seat belt on, you can’t drive late at night, this is not the party mobile,’ you are saving your children’s lives.”