Talking to Teens

Worried about your teen driver? So are we.

Motor vehicle crashes kill more teenagers than all other major causes combined. Texting and driving is killing more teens than drinking and driving.

You are the key. Parents are the most important influence on teen drivers. 66 percent of teens say their parents influence their cell phone use in the car, more than the law.  Parents who set rules and monitor their teen’s driving behavior in a supportive way can cut their crash risk in half. [www.teendriversource.org/more_pages/page/why_parents_matter/support_parents]

DISTRACTION KILLS
Distraction from teen passengers and cell phones are proven causes of fatal crashes. 3 out of 4 serious teen driver crashes are due to a critical driving error. The most common errors are:

  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Being distracted
  • Failing to detect a hazard

 

TALK TO YOUR TEEN
Discuss what activities are distractions and how to reduce and eliminate them. Talk about the right mindset for driving—what you should be focused on. Teach critical driving skills; how to scan around you and think ahead.

Log lots of practice driving together. During practice driving sessions, have your teen get ready before the key is turned. Choose the radio station, playlist or CD before starting the car. Put the phone out of sight and reach. Make sure all objects are secure and where they need to be. Find the sunglasses. Adjust the heat or air. Know the destination and have the route firmly in mind.

Emphasize safety, not control. Listen to your teen. How you approach the rules for your teen’s driving privileges makes all the difference in their attitude and willingness. Your concerns are based on fact—to help your son or daughter become a smart and responsible driver worthy to be on public roads.

TALK ABOUT DISTRACTION PREVENTION FROM THE BEGINNING—PRE-DRIVERS

  • Driving is an important and all-consuming task
  • As a driver you have a responsibility to everyone else on the road to be safe
  • As a driver you have the lives of your passengers in your hands

 

SET A GOOD EXAMPLE—SHOW YOUR CODE FOR THE ROAD
From the get-go, use the safe driving practices you want your children to have. Don’t talk, text, eat, or do other activities while you are driving. Don’t speed. Demonstrate how to be alert and focused.

SET RULES

  • Understand that driving is dangerous for teens. And not just for teen drivers; two out of three fatalities in teen driver crashes are teen passengers. The risk of a fatal crash for a teen driver increases exponentially with each teen or adolescent passenger. [CHOP, 2008]
  • Limit the number of passengers. No peer passengers for the first year of driving.
  • Know where they are going and when they’ll be home.
  • Limit night driving. Set a curfew.
  • Provide standards for the vehicle’s upkeep.

 

DELIVER CONSEQUENCES—AND REWARDS
Driving a vehicle is freedom…and responsibility. If rules aren’t followed, then you have to follow through with reasonable punishment, even if it means taking away the car keys. Likewise, when your teen shows responsible behavior and follows the rules, respond with rewards and praise.

GIVE THEM THE CONFIDENCE TO TELL THEIR FRIENDS: DON’T DO THAT
Young people are the least likely to complain when they are riding with a driver who texts or talks on a cell phone. Talk to your teen about protecting their own safety—ask the driver to put the phone down. Teach them never to ride with someone who has been drinking or doing drugs. Remind them that being a good passenger is smart for their sake and their friends.

ENCOURAGE YOUR TEEN DRIVER TO SET THEIR OWN RULES AND EARN RESPECT

  • Limit the number of passengers
  • Insist that passengers buckle up
  • Ask passengers to desist from distracting behavior

 

Consider installing a monitoring device in your teen’s car. Some insurance companies offer these along with a discount. Support for parents of teen drivers can be found at:

 

TALKING TO TEENS
Want to print or share this information? Click the image below for the PDF.

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