It seems like only yesterday that you were waving goodbye to your oldest child as she stepped onto the school bus. Now she’s ready for junior year, and is ready to ditch the bus and drive herself—and her friends—to school. She only got her license a few weeks ago, so how can you tell if she’s ready to drive on her own?
Parents Can Provide Proper Guidance and Reduce Crash Risk
Parents are right to be worried about the safety of their new drivers. Most teenagers will experience a car accident before they graduate from high school—and many of these crashes begin in September as kids head back to school. Many teens struggle to judge gaps in traffic, maintain a constant speed, or know how to brake and turn safely in different road and weather conditions.
When it comes to building trust and experience, a little teaching can go a long way. Here are a few ways to protect your teen before you allow him or her to use the family car:
- Eyes on speed. Many parents assume that their teenagers speed because of recklessness or thrill-seeking behavior, but the truth is many teen drivers simply fail to notice when they are going too fast. Parents can help by taking their teen drivers out for more experience in fluctuating speed conditions, such as passing on the highway, and decelerating on an off-ramp. Make sure your teen knows how to monitor speed when he or she is the only car on the road.
- Enforce seat belt use. Nearly half of all teenagers who are killed in car accidents are not wearing a seat belt. Misunderstood risks, peer pressure, and other factors can all stop teens from buckling up, but parents can reverse the trend by making seat belt use mandatory for every ride—no matter who is driving.
- Know your passengers. It is one thing to allow your child to drive alone, but siblings, friends, and other passengers increase the risk of an accident by up to 44 percent. Any other person riding in the car is a potential distraction for a young driver. Before you allow your teenager to ride with friends, ask her who will be going with her, who will be driving, and when will they be on the road—and make sure they are aware of the risks of each answer.
- Limit night driving. Studies have shown that teen drivers are three times more likely to suffer a fatal car accident at night than during the day. Like most skills, driving at night takes practice, so you should take your teenager out for night drives once a week until she is aware of the visibility issues and risks of drunk and tired drivers. A teen should only be allowed to drive alone at night once she has successfully driven with you.
- Lay down the law. Make sure your teen knows the rules for using the car—and the penalties for breaking them. Parents can download a teen safe driving contract to outline potential dangers and get their teenager’s signed agreement to adhere to the rules.
Are you afraid of the way your child’s friends or parents drive? Please consider sharing this article on Facebook or via email to make sure everyone in your community knows the dangers they are posing to others!