Parents with teens with newly-minted licenses often feel nervous every time they see their child get behind the wheel of a car. Unfortunately, there’s good reason to feel apprehensive. Car crashes are the second leading cause of death for teens, especially males. The good news is that parents can play an enormous role in helping their teens be safe on the road. A 2006 study published in the journal Pediatrics has shown that teens with parents who set rules and monitor teens driving behavior in a supportive manner are half as likely to get into accidents.
Here’s what you can do to help your teen stay safe.
1. Model good driving behavior
The old parental adage “do as I say, not as I do” generally doesn’t work–especially when it comes to driving. Kids tend to imitate their parents’ driving behavior, for better or worse. A study by Liberty Mutual Insurance has shown that parents are nearly as likely as teens to exhibit unsafe driving habits.
The study showed, for example, that 37 percent of parents of teen drivers use apps while driving, compared to 38 percent of teens surveyed. It also found that parents admit to bad habits such as speeding, driving while tired, or taking selfies while driving, as often or more than teens. More than a third of teens say their parents justify their risky driving behavior by saying their driving experience makes them safer drivers.
If you want to boost your teen’s safety, don’t just lecture them about good driving habits–always practice what you preach. Parents who engage in safe driving practices positively influence their children. In other words:
- never text or scroll apps while driving
- never drive while impaired
- never drive aggressively or engage in road rage
- always set the music, GPS, or radio stations before hitting the road.
- always follow driving-related laws, including going the speed limit, buckling up, etc.
- only drive when well-rested and sober.
2. Practice driving with your teen
The more practice teens have behind the wheel, the more likely they are to drive safely. Seventy-five percent of teen motor vehicle crashes are due to critical driver error, such as driving too fast for road conditions or failing to detect a hazard. It is generally recommended that teens have at least 50 hours of supervised driving time under various conditions before getting behind the wheel on their own. Even after your teen receives their license, continue to drive with them regularly, leading by example, and offering supportive advice.
3. Develop parent-teen agreements
Parents and teens should work together to create a family driving agreement. This agreement will establish the family rules that teens must follow when driving, and the consequences if they fail to follow the rules. It should include no-brainer legal rules such as no texting while driving or driving under the influence. But it should also include family-specific directions such as not driving with more than two other people in the car, or only using the car with express parental permission.
It’s essential to work together to develop the rules, as teens are more likely to follow them if they have a part in the process. You should also be sure to include a rule that if your teen finds themselves in a risky driving situation, they can ask you to come get them–without punishment or judgment. Click here to see a sample of a parent-teen driving agreement.
4. Understand Your State’s Graduated Driver Licensing laws
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws in place. Although every state program varies, GDL programs are generally intended to ensure that teens gain the driving experience they need gradually and safely. In Illinois, young drivers between the ages of 15-20 must pass through three progressive stages of driving to obtain the full right to be on the road on their own. For example, to pass from the first stage to the second, the teen driver must, among other things:
- practice driving a minimum of 50 hours, including 10 hours at night
- refrain from driving between certain hours at night (after 10pm on weeknights, and 11pm on weekends)
- refrain from driving with more than one passenger.
Teens who fail to adhere to these laws face stiff consequences. Make sure you know these rules and discuss them with your teen driver to ensure that they know and follow them. Strict adherence to and enforcement of GDL laws have saved hundreds of teen lives.
The Cullotta Bravo Law Firm’s team of skilled personal injury lawyers are experienced in handling teen driving and car crash cases. If you need assistance or legal advice concerning your teen driver, call us today at 630-898-7800 or contact us online for a free consultation.