By Kelsey Crago, LSW – October 21, 2021 –
Learning to drive is an important milestone in a young person’s life. Take a minute to think back to that time in your youth. Driving has the power to provide freedom and helps instill a stronger sense of independence in teenagers.
This milestone not only brings changes to your teen’s life, but also to yours as a caregiver. You’ll have less running to activities and an extra hand with errands. You may also experience some fears and ask yourself, “How can I keep my child safe?”
According to the CDC, teenage drivers are nearly three times more likely than drivers over age 20 to be in a fatal car accident. The biggest contributing factor to this danger is simply lack of experience. Other contributing risks include texting and driving, speeding, unsafe vehicles, and use of alcohol and drugs.
How can we combat these risk factors as caregivers? Here are eight recommendations for keeping your teen safe on the road.
- Be informed. Stay up to date with your state’s driving restrictions for newly licensed drivers. Discuss and enforce these with your teen.
- Model safe driving habits. Make sure you’re setting a safe example when driving by avoiding phone use, following traffic rules, and utilizing a designated driver when consuming alcohol. Our kids are always watching and learning.
- Limit passengers. Crash risks are nearly double for teens with one passenger and increase with each additional passenger. Consider limiting your teen’s passenger privileges initially and gradually increasing privileges with driving experience.
- Limit nighttime driving. The most severe teen crashes occur between 9 pm and midnight. Practice supervised night driving with your teen. Consider setting a time restriction for your teen’s vehicle use and gradually allow later driving as your teen gains experience.
- Watch the weather. Bad weather increases risk of accidents for all drivers. Teens do not have the experience to react safely in dangerous conditions. Limit your teen’s unsupervised driving in bad weather, increasing privileges with supervised experiences.
- Stick to familiar roads. Unfamiliar or high speed roads increase your teen’s risk for an accident. Consider limiting your teen’s range of driving to familiar places. Allow time for supervised practice on highways, interstates, or unfamiliar settings before increasing privileges.
- Ban driving (and riding) under the influence. Any amount of alcohol or drugs produces impairment in teen drivers. Establish a safety plan with your teen that can be followed if they find themselves in this dangerous situation.
- Prioritize vehicle safety. Factors including engine power, vehicle size, and airbags need to be considered when choosing a vehicle for your teen. Spend time with your teen reviewing car maintenance and safety.
Statistics show a teen’s greatest improvement in safety occurs within the first year and after their first few thousand miles of driving. Following these recommendations can help keep teens safe while they gain driving experience.
Consider creating a driving agreement with your child outlining expectations and consequences. Being involved in your teen’s driving experience is a great opportunity to connect and build lasting memories!