One day he’s riding a big wheel, the next he’s behind the steering wheel—of your car. As important as it was to remind your kids to look both ways and wear a helmet when they were tots, it’s even more crucial that they observe the rules of the road and practice safe driving now that they’re teens. Get them off to a good start with these tips:
Be a “Road Model”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teens age 16 to 19. That’s a sobering statistic, but you can help keep your child from becoming one of the 3,000 driving-related teen deaths each year by demonstrating your own safe driving habits. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, teen accident victims are more often than not children of parents who’d also been in car accidents, or had a history of traffic violations. If you want your teen to wear a seat belt, drive the speed limit, keep a safe distance behind other vehicles and refrain from talking or texting on the phone while driving, make sure she sees you do the same.
Let Them Practice What You Preach
The next time you’re in the car with your teen, explain the ways in which you’re practicing safe driving along the way. As you break for a traffic light, for example, describe how you begin to decelerate in advance of breaking, and how you leave a safety cushion of space between your car and the car in front when you do come to a stop. When it’s your child’s turn to take the wheel, go over the specific skills you’ll be practicing before you begin. Most important, give your teen plenty of opportunities to practice before taking his driving test. While many states require 50 hours of supervised practiced before a new driver can obtain a license, AAA recommends doubling that amount to ensure teens have experience driving in a variety of weather and traffic conditions.
Keep an Eye on Your New Driver
When your teen finally does get her license, the need to remind her to drive safely doesn’t go away—it increases. Drive with your child and talk about road safety often. AAA suggests creating a parent-teen driving contract that outlines the rules for driving and traffic safety for your family, as well as the consequences if they’re not followed.
For more information on teen driver safety, visit AAA’s Keys2Drive website.