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Guide your new teen driver along the path to responsible road-sharing.
If you’re nervous about your teenager getting behind the wheel, you have good reason to be concerned. Teen drivers are four times as likely to crash as older drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Since two major contributors to these accidents are immaturity and lack of experience, parents can play an important role in getting kids off to a good start.
- Discourage seat belt excuses. “Teens’ explanations include ‘I was just going down the block,’ ‘No one else wears them’ and ‘They’re too uncomfortable,’” says Anne Marie Hayes, president of the Teens Learn to Drive Foundation. “But there are no good excuses.”
- Take a hands-on approach. Experts recommend that teens drive for only 100 hours, supervised, during the first year. “This is structured, active parent coaching,” Hayes says. “Make sure to have your child practice on all kinds of roads, in various lighting and weather conditions.” Model good driving practices at all times with your children, no matter what age they are.
- Encourage a whole road perspective. Help your child take advantage of the entire panorama of visual detail before them. “They must take note of any cars pulling away from side parking spots and watch for pedestrians who might cut across the path from either sidewalk,” says Susan Kuczmarski, author of The Sacred Flight of the Teenager: A Parent’s Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go. “Then check for pedestrians on the crosswalk at the approaching stop sign. Monitor the rear-view mirror for activity behind the driver, and always look for fast-moving rollerbladers, bicyclists and pets that might suddenly cross in front.”
- Talk it out. When doing a ride-along with your teen, ask him or her to describe the decisions being made during the drive. This will help you understand his or her thought processes. “Listen closely to see if your teen is missing anything,” Kuczmarski says. “Give feedback based on both what you’re hearing and on the driving.” Similarly, when you’re driving, let your teen know why you make certain choices on the road in the interest of safety.
- Get it in writing. Many families come up with a driving agreement that spells out specific penalties for violations. Obviously, texting or talking on the phone while behind the wheel is a clear violation that needs to be addressed. Consider adding respect for traffic lights, right-of-way rules and speed limits. “This way, when a friend in the car tells your teen, ‘Speed up!’ your teen will know that he or she could lose driving privileges for a month,” Hayes says.