Being the parent of a new driver can be nerve wracking enough; reading up on the statistics involving young drivers and car crashes can make parents want to wrap their teen in bubble wrap and hand them a bus pass. As the Centers for Disease Control notes, car accidents are the number one cause of death for teenagers, leading to about 2,800 fatalities every year.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things proactive parents can do to help prevent their children from being part of these grim statistics, and none of them involve bubble wrap. The following tips can help prepare a teen to be a safe driver:
Practice, practice, practice
As often as possible, let your new driver get some driving practice. As the National Safety Council notes, the more hours he or she logs behind the wheel, the better off your teen will be. In addition to more formal driving lessons when you take your teen out to specific places — like driving on the freeway for the first time or learning how to maneuver the tight drive-thru window at Taco Bell — routinely ask your child to drive around town on simple errands. Try to shoot for at least 30 to 50 hours of supervised practice during the first six months your teen has his or her license.
Car maintenance 101
In order to be a safe driver, teens need to understand how a car works and how to take care of some minor repairs. Take some time to explain the safety features the car has, any warning signals he or she may hear in certain conditions, and what to do in case of a tire blowout. Discuss how to determine if the tires are filled with enough air, how to change a flat tire, what a tires with low tread looks like and when to replace old tires for safer driving.
Establish some basic rules
Because the risk of a car crash rises when teens drive with friends in the car, parents should be sure they are following their state’s teen driving rules and regulations. If your state does not have a law regarding teen passengers, then feel free to set one yourself. For example, you could allow your teen to take one trusted friend in the car or just drive places alone for the first six months to a year of having a license.
Parents also need to establish clear curfews and other rules for driving; these can range from being home before dark to allowing them to go a certain distance from home or maybe just on surface streets and not freeways. Then, once you have established your rules, notes Drive it HOME, let other parents of teens know about them. While your teen might protest, claiming that this will cause him or her to die of embarrassment, reassure your new driver that you want to be sure all of your parent friends are aware of your rules, so they can help enforce them, too.
Be aware that teens are watching you — always
When you are behind the wheel and your teen is along for the ride, be cognizant of the fact that your son or daughter is closely watching you to see what you are doing. If you want your teen to follow the speed limit, don’t be a lead foot. Check your blind spots when changing lanes, use your blinkers, and don’t tailgate. Although it might seem like that ear bud-wearing teen passenger is more interested in his or her phone than you, they are definitely still paying attention.
This article is from Karen Holbrooke, a teen safety expert, auto tech blogger, and mother of two.