A safer teen driver starts with the process of learning to drive.
Parents must be proactive and stress safe driving habits prior to their teen driver ever taking the wheel. Most graduated driving laws require teen drivers to learn the basic rules before receiving a learning permit and sitting behind the wheel.
During this phase, parents should discuss other important aspects of driving:
- How to set up rearview and side-view mirrors to avoid blind spots.
- Teach them how to use turn indicators, windshield wipers, and braking systems.
- Talk to them while you're driving, and explain decisions you're making to ensure safety.
- Teach them how to move their foot from gas to break-pedal without looking down.
This will also be a good time to begin discussing good driving habits and the bad habits that put your teen driver and those around them on the road in danger.
What things should you be talking about with your teen driver?
Discuss the Dangers of Inexperience
Stress the fact that teen drivers statistically stand a greater chance of being in a fatal accident. It's not because they're bad drivers, but because they lack experience.
No driver training program can emulate all the potential conditions in which a driver may be required to drive. By accepting and understanding their shortcomings, teen drivers can be more proactive in accounting for their own mistakes and those of drivers around them.
The rate of accidents reduces tremendously after new drivers get 1,000 to 1,500 miles of solo road time under their belt. Maybe even establish limits for solo trips until your teen has 1-3 months of driving experience after they've been fully licensed.
Discuss the Dangers of Drug/Alcohol Use While Driving
Definitely talk to your teen about the issue of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 20% of fatal crashes involving teen drivers had alcohol as a contributing factor.
Everyone knows the dangers of drunk driving. Everyone all also knows the power and influence of peer pressure. Young drivers must understand what's at stake when they—or friends they ride with drive drunk.
Discuss Driver Distraction
The American Automobile Association (AAA) found that 6 out of 10 accidents involving teen crashes involve driver distraction. The study also listed the top 3 distractions leading to accidents as follows:
- Interacting with one or more passengers - 15%
- Using a cell phone - 12%
- Looking at something in the vehicle - 10%
While texting and cell phone usage gets a great deal of attention, we often forget about the distraction caused by a group of teen passengers. It might be a good idea to begin establishing the rules on who your teen driver can have in the car while they're driving.
Be the Example
At this point in your teen's life, you've already discovered long ago that your kids learn more by watching you, than listening to you.
They've watched you drive for years. More recently, they've begun to watch your habits even closer in an effort to learn. When your riding with them, your teen driver will most likely do what you say. When they begin riding solo, they more often emulate what you do.
A recent survey by Liberty Mutual Insurance found that 69% of parents of teen drivers practice multiple unsafe driving behaviors—including distracted driving.
How much weight will your words carry, if your teen driver sees you consistently breaking the rules?
Lay Down the Ground Rules— In Writing.
You might even want to try using a formal "New Driver Agreement". By creating a written contract, everyone understands and agrees to the rules up front. If or when there's a rules infraction, you'll have the leverage of a written agreement with pre-established punishments.
It can also help you address other important issues about keeping a shared vehicle clean and maintenance costs.
Below are a few sample agreemennts you can use as a guideline: