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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

It’s a study in contrasts. Your newly-licensed teen wants to get out on the road while you, the anxious parent, wants to keep them safe. And you’re right to worry. According to the CDC, seven 16–19 year old teens die in road accidents every day. But as bubble-wrapping isn’t an option, how do you protect them when you’re not around?

Safe Transportation

Some parents focus on finding the safest possible car to drive for their teens. A good source of information on this is the Government’s Safercar.gov website. This provides a searchable database of crash test results going back as far as 1990. Alternatively, you can study “safe car” lists published on-line by groups like Car & Driver magazine. A strong car with the latest safety technology helps protect your teen if they get into an accident, but isn’t it better that they avoid the accident in the first place?

Teen Driver Restrictions

IIHS data presented at a 2012 road safety conference shows having just one young passenger increases the risk of dying in an accident by 50%. Put three teenage passengers in a car and the risk goes up by a horrifying 500%. Graduating Driving License (GDL) schemes are lawmakers’ response to this danger. The efforts of placing limits on the number of passengers and restricting when younger drivers can be on the roads are reducing teenage fatalities.

GDL schemes also reduce parent-teen conflict. Teens often see rules imposed to keep them safe as arbitrary and capricious, but pointing to laws helps prevent parents from being the villains.

A similar approach is the Parent-Teen Driving Agreement promoted by the driver organization, AAA. Taking the form of a contract, this addresses points like telling parents when the teen will be home and not carrying passengers.

Talking Points

Laws and contracts are all good, but many parents want greater involvement. Here are three topics to cover:

  • Cellphones: There should be absolutely no texting while driving, but do you want their phone turned off? If their car has Bluetooth are you okay with them talking hands-free? Think this through before insisting on an absolute ban.
  • Safety belts: Insist that your teen stays buckled-up all the time. It might seem obvious, but peer pressure can lead to teens not making use of this simple safety aid.
  • Passengers: Taking siblings to school is one thing but driving friends to the movie theater is much riskier. Decide what you’re comfortable with and ensure that your teen knows your expectations.

More information is available from insurance companies, who have a vested interest in reducing accidents. State Farm has a teen driver safety website that you can access from here.

Model Good Behavior

When your teen was first learning to drive, you probably made an effort to demonstrate the skills they needed to develop. Consciously or not, they’ll still mimic what they see you do, so model the behaviors you want them to use when you’re not with them.

Seeing your teen set out alone for the first time is an exciting, yet nail-biting moment. Talk to them about the risks, and how to stay safe.

Written by Amy Sanborn

With three school-aged children, Amy knows a thing or two about parenting. She loves teaching her kids to appreciate the outdoors.