How to talk to your kids about the importance of safe driving

By | January 29, 2018 | Motherhood & Family

How to talk to your kids about the importance of safe driving

Greater independence comes to most teenagers the day they get their learner’s permit. Suddenly the teen can go places on his or her own, plus a driver’s license brings a certain social status for most teens. Parents, on the other hand, likely spend untold hours worrying about whether their teen is being safe on the roadways – and with good reason. According to the American Automobile Association, teen drivers account for only 7 percent of the drivers on the road, yet are involved in nearly 15 percent of all fatal crashes.

Further, traffic collisions are the number one cause of death and serious injury among those between the ages of 15 and 19. Young drivers – particularly in the first six months – have many different issues which contribute to their high rate of auto accidents. These issues include inexperience, lack of adequate driving skills, distractions, consumption of alcohol or drugs, driving during the hours of 11 p.m. – 5 a.m., risk-taking behaviors, poor decision-making skills and poor judgment.

The first six months after a teen driver gets his or her license are considered the most dangerous, because of the lack of experience. What a parent pays for their new driver’s insurance is likely to be reduced if the teen has taken a driver’s education course or class, although not all states require these courses. And, as most parents are aware, it can be extremely expensive to insure a teen driver. You must carefully monitor your teen’s driving skills, preventing your young driver from driving independently until you are truly comfortable with his or her level of driving skills.

Speaking candidly with your teen about safe driving

It is also your responsibility to take the time to speak openly with your teen regarding the importance of being safe on the roadway. Below are some of the most crucial issues you should discuss with your teen before you hand him or her the car keys:

  • No teen passengers. Whether your state prohibits other teen passengers or not, you should do so, for at least the first six months. Talk to your teen about the distraction other teens in the car pose, and make sure they understand that your rule also prohibits them from being a passenger in the car with other new drivers.
  • Scanning for hazards. One of the most common problems your teen will face is his or her lack of experience. You should first teach your teen how to scan for potential hazards. The tendency of a new teen drivers is to look only as far as the car in front of them. This significantly reduces your teen’s ability to properly react to hazards, therefore you should teach your teen driver to keep an eye on traffic several automobiles ahead and to the sides, looking for brake lights, roadblocks, pedestrians, emergency vehicles and traffic signals.
  • Nix distractions. Distracted driving is fast becoming the top cause of automobile accidents for adults and for teens. Drivers are eating in their vehicles, fiddling with radio and GPS controls, talking to passengers, talking on their cell phone, and texting. Teens (and perhaps some adults) have also been known to put on makeup, look at their social media account, and even read while driving. All of these actions require the driver to divert his or her attention from the road and other drivers. Even a few short seconds of inattention can lead to a serious auto accident. Make sure to speak with your teen about the dangers of distractions, and even think about having your teen sign a contract which states he or she will not text while driving. The primary dangerous distractions for teens, aside from their cell phones, include the following:
  • Other teens in the car;
  • Loud music in the car;
  • Passengers in the car who are singing and “dancing;”
  • Passengers acting wild;
  • Loud, rowdy younger siblings in car;
  • Passengers drinking alcohol or drugs, and
  • Passengers urging driver to speed.
  • Seat belt safety. Make sure your teen understands the importance of always buckling up, and having every passenger in the car buckle up as well. According to the CDC, more than half of teens between the ages of 13 and 19 who died in an automobile crash in 2015 were not wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash. Parents must ensure their teens know this is a non-negotiable issue.

If you are unsure about your teen’s readiness to take to the road, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is your teen generally responsible in other areas?
  2. Do you trust your teen to drive your car in a responsible manner?
  3. If your teen is upset, frustrated or angry, will he or she know to pull over and regroup?
  4. Do you note any aggressive driving behaviors or excessive speed when driving with your teen?
  5. Does your teen wait to handle distractions which would take his or her eyes off the road—and do you think he or she would do so if you were not in the vehicle?
  6. Do you trust your teen to never even glance at his or her cell phone while driving?
  7. Does your teen always buckle up without having to be reminded?
  8. Do you notice your teen consistently scanning for hazards while driving?
  9. Do you feel confident in the level of driving practice your teen has had, and are you confident in his or her ability to handle unexpected situations?

If you can truthfully answer “yes” to the above questions, then your teen is probably ready to drive on his or her own. If you have done your job and discussed the necessary safety issues with your teen, then you won’t have to worry about them quite as much!

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Barbara Bowden

Barbara Bowden is attorney and owner of The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden. Barbara’s favorite part about being a defense attorney is handling a case from beginning to end – turning something from a negative into something positive. She is extremely passionate about making a positive impact on people’s lives through the tireless work of her law office. When Barbara is not in the office, she is doing her other job – being a mom to her two daughters.

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