As parents, we do everything possible to ensure our children are safe. From baby proofing our homes and teaching bike safety, to educating kids about strangers and providing them with the skills they need to know how to swim, we are constantly looking for ways to keep our children healthy and protected.
When kids get older, and become more independent, keeping them safe is a bit more challenging. We can’t always be right there, guiding them through daily obstacles and helping them make the best decisions.
We can, however, prepare them as much as possible, by teaching them safe practices and discussing potential dangers ahead of time.
For teens, one of the most relevant safety issues, is driving. Motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of accidental death among teenagers, accounting for nearly one-third of all deaths between the ages of 12 and 19.
Contrary to popular belief, the cause of teen crashes generally isn’t due to them taking more risks behind the wheel. Instead, this staggering statistic can simply be attributed to their inexperience as a driver.
Distracted driving can be an issue for all drivers, but even more so for teens. A major problem for teenage drivers is having other teens as passengers. Just one teenage passenger raises a teen driver’s fatal crash risk by 44 percent. That percentage doubles with two passengers, and quadruples with three or more.
So what can we do to keep our teens safe on the road? These simple tips can help:
Be a good influence
Parents are the #1 influencer of teen driving behavior. Whether we realize it or not, our children are constantly observing what we do, and how we do it. Kids learn behaviors – both good and bad – from watching the adults around them. This is true when it comes to driving as well, which means parents should drive how they want their teen to drive.
We can’t just assume that teens know how to behave when behind the wheel. Setting clear expectations and guidelines regarding texting/talking while driving, music volume, speeding, and other potential hazards, is vital to the well-being of teenage drivers, and others they will encounter on the road.
Provide a safe vehicle
Whether your teen has their own car, or shares with other family members, it’s important that the vehicle they are driving is safe and well maintained. Teaching teenagers basic car maintenance skills, such as how to change a tire and how to check the engine oil level are useful life skills, and just might save them from being stranded on the side of the road.
Discuss driving dangers
Teaching teen drivers to be proactive and prepared for all kinds of driving situations (unexpected weather, car trouble, reckless drivers, road closures, etc.) can help them navigate issues they will inevitably encounter at some point while on the road. Ensuring teenagers know the risks of driving while intoxicated, or even tired, is essential to their health and safety.
Practice, practice, & more practice
The only way to become a skilled, experienced driver, is to drive often, and in a variety of environments and conditions. Teens need plenty of opportunities to practice, with the guidance and support of a loving adult. Even after teenagers earn their driver’s license, parents should continue to practice driving with them, in an effort to hone their skills.
Staying involved with our teen’s driving experience is the most important thing we, as parents, can do to keep them safe and educated about the dangers of driving. It’s vital that we continue to openly communicate expectations, practice with them often, and enforce family rules that are stronger than the state laws.
What are some tips you have for keeping teen drivers safe? Feel free to share your ideas and thoughts in the comments below.