Getting behind the wheel is a freeing experience for teenagers, but it is a terrifying rite of passage for parents. No matter how responsible your child is, it is natural to worry about giving them control over a vehicle that could cause thousands of dollars in property damage or even claim their lives.
Wanting to help keep your teenage driver as safe as possible requires communicating the risks with them. What advice can you give your teen driver that will have the maximum impact on their safety?
No one can safely text and drive
Reading a text message, typing a response or even recording a video can be a dangerous distraction. Taking one hand off the wheel to manage the phone and eyes off the road to look at the screen could directly lead to a crash.
No matter how fast your kid can text or how proficient they are with the use of mobile technology, they need to understand that they won’t be able to safely text while driving.
It’s better to stay safe or call for help than to drive after drinking
You’ve likely already talked with your teenager about the legal risk involved with drinking or drug use. You now need to drive home the fact that it is never, ever okay to get behind the wheel after smoking marijuana, drinking a couple of beers or experimenting with other drugs.
Some safety organizations recommend that parents give their children a free pass if they call for a sober ride home. Simply put, if your teen makes the good decision to call you from a party and say that they can’t safely drive home, you should agree to get them without punishment. You could go as far as to use a code word or phrase so they don’t feel embarrassed in front of their friends.
Everyone riding in the vehicle should wear their seat belt
Diligently putting on a safety belt in the front seat is common sense, especially with newer vehicles that will make pinging or beeping sounds until someone connects their buckle. However, teenagers riding in the backseat may try to avoid putting on their seat belt. Many teens who get hurt in crashes aren’t wearing their seat belts, and your insurance policy will be the one that pays if your child crashes and their friends get hurt.
Don’t forget to lead by example!
Your young driver will likely imitate what they see you do at the wheel, rather than blindly follow your directions. If you put the car in gear before buckling up, answer texts while driving or frequently break the speed limit, your children may copy that behavior instead of following the rules.
Your safe driving habits and a clear explanation of expectations for your new driver can remind them to follow the rules and hopefully help them avoid getting into any serious crashes.