We all love to watch our children grow up. From navigating the special times that come with early parenthood, to managing transitions to school, we relish in the good times and get through the not-so-great ones. And just when we thought we knew it all, our little cherubs begin developing into mini-adults and present us with a whole new (and much scarier) set of challenges.
As parents, perhaps one of the most harrowing of teen-related experiences is when it comes time for them to drive. While actually teaching your teen to drive may seem like the stressful part, once they pass their driver’s test and become an official part of the driving community, the real anguish begins.
And, it’s with good reason too. Their oh-so-familiar air of invincibility coupled with their inexperience on the road can make for a dangerous mix; one that’s often hard to convey without looking like the over-protective mom! Attempting to entice your teen to consider their safety rather than their brand-new totally cute license plate frame can be somewhat of an uphill struggle!
But here’s the truth: motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the US.
It can safely be said, that auto-accidents have become an epidemic for the teenage population, but there are a number of things that you can do TODAY to make sure your teen has the best chance on the roads.
How to reduce the risk of your teenager being involved in an auto accident
The vast majority of auto-accidents involving teens result as a consequence of attitude and maturity level. So, essentially, there is one thing you must do before you can implement any of the tips we have for you.
Helping your teen develop a good relationship with, and understanding of road safety is the single most important thing you can do. Doing this, even before your child reaches driving age, will influence their decision when they’re on the road, helping them make educated choices to look after their own safety.
And how you do this is up to you; you’re the one who knows how your teen will best respond. Do they need shock factor (showing them the aftermath of teen car accidents)? Do they need the cold hard facts? Can you simply talk to them like an adult? Or do you need to lay down the law with the threat of confiscating their car or other such teen-luxuries?
Remember, teenagers are quick to forget, so reminding them about their attitude towards driving each time they leave to get in their car may be irritating for them, but it may well save their life.
- Encourage them to put their phones away.
With teens spending more time on their cell phones and distracted by social media, it’s not surprising that “being distracted” is the number one reason that teenagers crash. Encourage your teen to put their phone into the glove-box of their car when they get in, so the temptation of ‘quickly’ checking that text is removed. If they do need to talk on their cell while driving (which really isn’t advisable with new drivers anyway!), investing in a hands-free car kit is an option that can still be used with their cell still nicely tucked away!
- No drinking/drug use and driving
In a time of wild experimentation, so many teens are exposed to underage drinking and/or illegal drug use (whether participating or simply being present). Ensure your teen knows both the dangers of driving under the influence and getting into a vehicle with an intoxicated driver; both can be as deadly as each other.
- Always wear a seatbelt
This is something that should be ingrained in your child’s mind from a very early age, but you should remind them that just because they’re venturing off in their own vehicle, they should still follow the rules they always have!
- Train them in poor weather conditions
If your teen has had no experience driving in windy, wet or icy conditions, they’re unlikely to alter their driving style or exercise extra caution when they experience these for the first time. Make sure part of their tuition includes driving in adverse weather conditions.
- Consider the number of passengers
Your risk of fatal accident increases with each passenger, so it’s particularly important that teens don’t travel with a car full of their friends. Not only is it an extreme distraction, when collisions do occur, the effect of each person hitting various parts of the vehicle and one another can be devastating.
- Limit Night-time driving
When driving at night, your risk of fatal collision increases threefold. So, while it’s necessary to include some night-time driving in your teen’s tuition, it’s also vital you try to limit how much they drive after dark.
- Build their awareness
Part of teenagers’ attitude towards driving is born from their lack of comprehension surrounding the consequences of collisions. Sure, they’re aware that crashes can cause injury and death but sometimes this knowledge isn’t enough.
Do they know how injuring themselves (or worse), will directly impact their own family?
Do they understand the heartache they could cause to another family by simply just checking a text?
Now, this tip is difficult to help your teen understand. With stats and figures being pretty meaningless in their minds, you may need to bring it closer to home. Make them aware of accidents that have happened in your area when they arise. It really helps them put things into context, knowing they’ve driven those roads and they can picture where it was.
All You Can Do
Sending your teen out on the road can be a scary time for any parent. We know how dangerous the roads can be and trying to install that into our nonchalant teens can be a harrowing task. All you can do is give your teen the facts, reiterate and lead by example. As with everything, your teen will make their own decisions, all you can do is hope that they’ll use the tools and advice you’ve equipped them with.
By establishing a positive relationship with the open road now, you’ll hopefully help your teen develop a life-long affinity with it. Whether practicing road safety when driving to and from work, or undergoing their CDL test to utilize their skills in their career, your teen will undoubtedly be a driver for the rest of their lives; now’s the time to instill the importance of road safety the best you can!