As teen drivers prepare to get behind the wheel, it can be an extremely frightening time for parents. After all, car accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for about one out of three deaths within this age group. However, there are several steps parents can take to help keep their teenagers safe - in fact, parent involvement can be extremely influential on teens' driving habits. Numerous surveys have shown that teens are more likely to practice safe driving habits when their parents actively support and monitor their driving education. In this post, our Columbia personal injury lawyers share some tips and information to help parents stay informed and involved.
Facts about teen driving
• In large part because they lack driving experience, teen drivers between age 16 and 19 are four times more likely to be involved in auto accidents than adult drivers between age 25 and 69.
• Distracted driving is an especially prevalent problem among teen drivers: drivers under age 20 have the highest proportion of fatal crashes involving driver distraction.
• A teen driver's crash risk is even higher when other teens are in the vehicle. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly two out of three auto accident fatalities involving 16 year-old drivers occur when one or more peer passengers are riding in the vehicle.
• The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that two-thirds of teens who are killed in traffic accidents are not wearing seat belts.
• Teen drivers with involved parents are more likely to wear seat belts, avoid drinking and driving, obey posted speed limits, and refrain from using cell phones while driving.
Teaching your teen about roadway safety:
• Remember that obtaining a driver's license represents a major milestone for teens as an important step towards independence. Be sure to praise and celebrate your teen for the accomplishment.
• Research indicates that teens often fail to recognize their limitations as novice drivers, and many view driving "experience as something that's solved by getting a driver's license." That's why it's so important for parents to stay involved: talk to your teens about roadway safety on a regular basis, even after they've passed their driver's tests and started driving on their own.
• When you talk to your teen about driving, make the conversation a dialogue instead of a lecture. Teens are more likely to listen and respond when they feel their ideas and perspectives are being respected. If they feel they're just being criticized or reprimanded, they're more likely to stop listening and less likely to share their experiences and questions with you.
Creating (and enforcing) a parent-teen driving agreement
• Developing a parent-teen driving agreement is an excellent way to establish your expectations when it comes to driving. It also creates an opportunity for you to discuss the ground rules with your teen and explain why each one is important.
• Once you and your teen have established the terms of the agreement, both parties must hold up their end of the bargain - which means you must honor your promises, and you must follow through with the agreed-upon consequences, should your teen break any of the rules.
• Your parent-teen driving agreement may cover any number of topics, including which vehicles your teen is allowed to drive, vehicle care and maintenance, insurance payment responsibilities, and safe driving practices. If you need some ideas to help you develop your own agreement, there are several resources available online: check out sample agreements provided by the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Checkpoints Program.