We can take a few actions to safeguard our children from a crucial, even fatal driving error. Pay for Extra Driver Training, if you can afford it. Consider investing in additional behind-the-wheel driver education for your teen. Don't rely solely on Drivers Education in the high schools. We specifically recommend an "active" setting (where your child actually gets behind the wheel and drives) versus a classroom setting, since the latter is mainly book learning, while the former teaches your child the real-world driving dynamics of an automobile.
Have Your Child Drive You Crazy Well, not literally. What we mean here is, once your child receives her learner's permit, have her drive everywhere possible — to the store, school, the bowling alley, wherever — with you in the passenger seat, of course. It's crucial that your child gets as much "wheel" time as possible before going off on his/her own. Remember, nothing gives a better understanding of the dynamics of a motor vehicle than repeated exposure to the actual driving experience. Talk to your child as you drive continuing the theme above, communicate with your child as you travel together.
Turn off the radio and talk to her/him about safety hazards you encounter along the way. Remember this one point: by the time your teen reaches driving age, you've most likely been driving him around for 15-plus years; you have much to impart. Remember, too, that body language and hand signals can be as effective as spoken directions. For instance, if you see a car nosing out of a driveway, a simple gesture in that direction can alert your teen driver to the potential danger. Also, remind yourself of the safety hazards you notice in your own driving, and communicate these to your child as you travel. Some common themes: watching downhill speed, spotting trouble ahead, braking sooner rather than later.
Remind your child that defensive driving is all about anticipation. Don't rant, yell, scream or shout — until you get home. As much as you may want to, it's best not to overreact while on the road with your teen driver. Wait until you get home. Then you can yell all you want. Seriously, there's a safety reason for this. Studies have shown that an emotionally charged conversation compromises driving performance, reducing attention span and increasing distraction. If your child does something wrong on the road, make a mental note to discuss it when you get home, or, if you find the infraction serious enough, have her pull over and take over the driving for her. Whatever you do, do not yell or rant at your child while he/she drives. This could be dangerous for both of you.
Review Your Driving Session: along these same lines, consider a brief review of the day's driving once you return home. As gently and calmly as possible, discuss potential problems and solutions, dangers you encountered on the road and things to pay attention to in future trips.
Once your child receives his license, the landscape changes a little. However, your job is far from over. Now, you kick into surveillance mode. Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. What you see and hear — and how you respond to it — could save your child's life.
Meet Your Child's Traveling Companions
The social aspects of teen driving cannot not be underestimated. The sudden freedom of mobility acts like an elixir to some teens. Be sure to monitor your child's comings and goings, doing the best you can to keep track of his companions. A number of factors influence teen driver safety. Besides the usual culprits of drugs and alcohol, other issues, such as speeding, bravado and failure to wear seatbelts, account for thousands of lost teen lives every year. Equally significant, a recent study found that a 16-year-old driver with three or more passengers was three times as likely to die in a fatal wreck than one driving alone.
Remind your teen driver about the risks: be the most annoying parent you can be. Remind your child frequently of the inherent dangers of operating a motor vehicle with anything less than 100 percent concentration. Insist that she not operate a car while drunk or high—and, equally important, that she not ride with a driver similarly intoxicated. If necessary, make yourself available for emergency pick-ups.
Choose a safe car: the type of car your teen driver operates can be a matter of life and death. Choose one in good working condition, with solid crash test scores and a strong record for reliability. If shopping for a used car, closely inspect tires and brakes, belts and hoses, and other systems that can influence the safety or dependability of the vehicle.
Ride Periodically with your teen: continue to ride with your teen driver from time to time, reviewing safety tips and monitoring his driving skills. Bad habits can crop up at any time, but are especially prevalent in the beginning years of driving. Best to nip them in the bud. Frequent, ongoing drive-alongs are the best way to keep tabs on a teen driver's progress. Remember that the first few years are absolutely crucial in establishing solid driving habits, which can then lead to a lifetime of safe driving.
Create a contract with your teen and have them share insurance and other costs: Since driving is a privilege and not a right, creating a contract (like the one found here) that spells out the rules and consequences is a good way to help your teen become a safer driver. Also, consider having your child share in the cost of operating the vehicle. This will not only teach her/him responsibility, but will also give a dawning realization that nothing is free. It might also translate into better driving skills.
These are just some suggestions that may help keep your teen safe while they gain experience behind the wheel. The most important part as always is keeping the conversations open and providing the type of influence as parents and adults that we want them to have.
Remember it's hard to tell your kids not to talk on the phone while driving if they see you do it.