Parents may think they cannot control their teen drivers’ behavior on the road, but research suggests otherwise. Young, inexperienced drivers model their parents’ driving habits for better or worse. For example, teen drivers whose parents are involved in teaching them to drive are twice as likely to wear seatbelts as those whose parents are not involved.
Kids also mimic their parents’ driving behavior when it comes to speeding, talking on the phone, and other habits that can lead to motor vehicle crashes. However, with strong communication and lots of practice, teen drivers can become competent and safe on the road.
Much material is available to educate both young people and their families about the dangers that teen drivers are likely to face as they learn their limits and develop crash-avoidance skills.
The National Safety Council offers the following suggestions to parents:
- Make sure that novice drivers get a lot of behind-the-wheel practice. Inexperience is the leading cause of car accidents involving teen drivers. Parents should ensure that a teen understands how to safely operate a car before driving solo.
- Set clear rules. Parents should communicate clear expectations about safe driving. Set limits on what your teen can and cannot do while driving. Require your teen to wear a seatbelt and never use a cellphone behind the wheel. A safe driving contract is an effective tool to encourage safe driving.
- Be aware of risky situations and know the law. Virginia limits night driving for teens and prohibits newly permitted drivers from carrying more than one teen passenger at first.
- Communicate with teenage drivers as they learn and become more experienced behind the wheel. Allstate Foundation conducted a study and found that parents talk with their kids about the dangers of smoking and drugs earlier than they discuss fatal car accidents. Auto crashes are the leading cause of death for young people, and early and consistent communication is critical to helping teen drivers stay safe.
- Do not depend entirely on driver’s education. Just because a teen driver passed driver’s education does not mean that he or she will always be a safe driver. The first six months of licensure is the riskiest time for teen drivers, and auto collisions are most likely to occur during this critical learning and adjustment period.