“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths in this age group,” reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Impulsive behavior, diverted attention and the use of cell phones when driving can all contribute to accidents and crashes.
Start by setting good examples. Teaching your teen to be a safe driver may not only save his or her life, but potentially can save the lives of others as well. Kids begin the learning process of becoming a safe driver by watching adult driving behavior. Parents and guardians must set safe driving examples throughout a child’s growing-up years. When the teen receives a driving permit, those early impressions can influence the way he or she behaves when behind the wheel.
Follow all state laws. Most states have a Graduated Drivers License program. This places restrictions on drivers younger than 18 years old. For example, in Illinois, a 16-year-old driver may only transport one other passenger (under 20) in the car and cannot drive between the hours 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. To learn GDL laws in your state, visit the Governor’s Highway Safety Association online. It is a parent or guardian’s responsibility to enforce these rules and curfew laws to keep their teens safe. Most state GDL laws include restrictions regarding:
- Minimum age to drive
- Minimum driving hours needed during learning stage
- A required number of supervised driving hours, including night driving
- Night driving restrictions (driving curfews)
- Passenger restrictions
- Cell phone usage restrictions/bans
Other state laws. Kids who grow up riding with adult drivers who follow state driving laws are more likely to follow those laws when they receive a driving license. These laws can include:
- Seat belt laws — Always buckle up. Seat belts save lives.
- DUI/DWI laws — Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, both of which are illegal for young drivers, anyway.
- Cell phone laws — Follow all state laws regarding cell phone usage and driving.
- Construction zone laws — Never speed in a construction zone.
- Passing laws — Never pass a stopped school bus.
Driving contract. Through some insurance companies, new teen drivers and their parents or guardians can sign a driving contract, pledging to obey all driving laws, regulations and safety rules. If your insurance company does not offer a teen driving contract, consider creating your own. Take this time to sit down with your teen, discuss driving safety and explain why following all rules and regulations can save his or her life, as well as other lives.
Basic safety tips. Teens tend to think they are invincible. Continually remind teen drivers of daily (and nightly) dangers that threaten drivers of all ages:
- Never drive through unfamiliar neighborhoods, especially after dark.
- Always park under lights and near other vehicles in parking lots.
- Never pick up hitchhikers or agree to allow a stranger into the car.
- Never engage in aggressive behavior with or against other drivers.
- Always be aware of changing weather conditions and get to a safe place when threatening weather strikes.
- In an emergency, always pull over to a safe location before using a cell phone to call for help.
Parents and guardians must remember that teaching a teen driver does not stop as soon as he or she receives a license. Driving education and driving safety is a perpetual learning experience. Parents, guardians and educators must remind and enforce all safety rules and laws in order to keep teens safe on the road.