How to Help Your Teen Be a Safer Driver

 In Personal Injury

Parents all too often underestimate the impact they have on the behavior of their teenage children. While it might seem like friends, school, popular culture and cell phones dominate your teen’s attention, you do have the power to shape your teens in positive ways. One of the most important lessons you can instill in your teen is how to be a safer driver.

Start Early

Your children are watching you. No—that’s not the tagline of a horror movie. It’s just the truth. If you talk or text while driving with your kids in the car, they will do the same when they start driving. If you don’t wear your seat belt, they probably won’t either, even if you’ve always insisted that they wear one while riding with you.

Kids model behaviors, good and bad. The most important thing you can do is set an example as a safe and conscientious driver.

Take These Steps

Beyond being a good role model, there are several things you can do to help your teens stay safe when they get behind the wheel.

  • Practice: Teens rarely get into accidents while under adult supervision. But car accident rates skyrocket once teens gain the right to drive unsupervised. Your teen will be better equipped to be a safe driver if you have devoted significant time to supervising their early driving. The minimum required amount of supervised driving time is a floor, not a ceiling. The more time you can give them, the better prepared they will be.
  • No seat belt, big problem: Surveys suggest that around 25% of teens don’t wear a seat belt on every ride. More than half of all teen drivers killed in car accidents are unbuckled when the crash occurs. It is important to impress upon your teen the necessity of wearing a seat belt every time, even on short trips.
  • Have rules and enforce them: That is probably good parenting advice in general, but in teaching a teen to drive it could be a life saver. Start by understanding the requirements set forth in Minnesota’s graduated licensing program. This will provide a baseline. Beyond that, you can set additional rules and penalties to stress the importance of not just getting a license, but becoming a safe driver.
  • Cell phones: Inexperienced drivers are prone to accidents even when their focus is on the road. When teens are talking or texting on their phones, the chances of a car accident rise sharply. Cell phones can be addicting. You must impress upon your teenager the importance of remaining focused behind the wheel. Distraction can be fatal.
  • Don’t take chances: Teens are less equipped to drive safely in heavy traffic, in the dark, in bad weather, on unfamiliar roads, or with multiple passengers in the vehicle than more experienced drivers. Young drivers should have lots of practice in calm, controlled situations before testing themselves in challenging conditions. Let your new driver develop good habits before throwing them in the deep end.
  • Know your teen: Inexperience and risky behavior drive high rates of fatal crashes among teens. Do you trust your teen to drive at a safe speed? Does your teen succumb to peer pressure easily? Are you positive your teen will not drink and drive? Teenagers are prone to making poor decisions. It is up to you to demonstrate that taking chances behind the wheel carries consequences too great to bear. If you have concerns, don’t just cross your fingers and hope it all works out. Be proactive.

Learn More About Teen Driving Safety

To learn more about how to make your teen a better, safer driver, try Parents Central. In addition to information on state licensing requirements, you can find information about a number of safety issues facing new drivers.

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