10 Tips For Keeping Your Teen Driver
In wrapping our Teen Driver Safety Series, we want to take a look back at
where we've been and relate it to our central theme: keeping our children
alive. After all, none of this matters if we fail in our primary duty as
parents and guardians.
The future of any society rests in its children. Clearly, without new
citizens, a culture stagnates. Therefore, protecting youth
from its own foibles and foolhardiness falls to the older, more responsible
members of the community. This is no more true
than in the area of automobiles, where thousands of young people die every
year on American highways.
So what can we do to make our teen drivers safer? What actions might we
undertake to safeguard them from a crucial, even fatal, driving error?
In this, our final installment in our Teen Driver Safety Series, let's recap
the highlights of our previous four articles, plus add some new thoughts. To
make this easier to follow for the reader, we've arranged it into a top 10
for Extra Driver Training If
you can afford it, consider investing in
additional behind-the-wheel driver education for your teen. As we
discussed in our third installment, the state of driver's ed
is absolutely deplorable and shows no
sign of improving. There are a lot of reasons for this, not the least of
which is the absence of a national standard. Instead, each state makes its
rules. Because of this, there is a wide disparity in the quality of driver
training from state to state. 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. There are a
number of racing schools and low-cost programs around the country. Check
your local listings, or see Part
Three of this series.
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 her
own. Remember, nothing gives a better understanding of the dynamics of a
motor vehicle than repeated exposure to the actual driving experience.
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 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.
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 she drives. This could
be dangerous for both of you.
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.
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. As we discussed in Part
Two, 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 significantly, 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.
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.
a Safe Car As we discussed in
Four, 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.
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.
Your Child Share Insurance and Other Costs
Since driving is a privilege and not a right,
consider having your child share in the cost of operating the vehicle.
This will not only teach her responsibility, but will also give her a
dawning realization that nothing is free. It might also translate into
better driving skills.
Well, there you have it -- our top 10 safety tips for teen drivers.
We trust you'll utilize them in keeping your child safe on the road.
Whatever your decisions in this area, realize that direct
involvement with your child is the best way to insure against accidents and
fatalities. Taking an active role can truly make a difference.