Parents of New Drivers
Facts About Teen Drivers
Most teen crashes involve “rookie” mistakes. Teens need time to gain driving experience under varying road conditions.
- Many parents and teens fail to practice adequately complex skills that help teens avoid crashes.
- Parents play a crucial role in teen driving safety, including peer pressure. They can help teens avoid unsafe situations and know what steps to take to stay safe.
- According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), two-thirds of teens killed in crashes were not wearing seat belts.
- Two or more peer passengers more than triples the risk of a fatal crash when a teen is behind the wheel.
- According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), crash risk is four times higher when a driver uses a cell phone, whether or not it's hands-free.
- The effects of being awake for 18 hours are similar to having a a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.08, which is legally drunk.
- Although teens are actually less likely than adults to get behind the wheel after drinking, their risk of crashing is far greater, even with low to moderate blood alcohol content (BAC) levels.
- Speed is a major factor in teen crash fatalities.
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Parent Support is Key
The most important thing for you to know is that as their parent you have the greatest influence over your teenager’s driving behavior. Your teen needs you now more than ever and really wants you to be involved in their lives. They just don’t always show it.
Research shows that:
- Teens with involved parents (set rules and monitor) are twice as likely to wear seat belts.
- Teens with supportive, involved parents are 70 percent less likely to drink and drive.
- Teens with involved parents (set rules and monitor) are half as likely to speed.
- Teens with involved parents (set rules and monitor) are 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone while driving.
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Set a Good Example
Your child started learning how to drive the minute their car seat faced forward. Now more than ever, it’s important that you set a good example.
Although teens get safe driving examples from many places no one has the opportunity to make as much of an impact as you do. Set a good example. “If you run red and yellow lights, speed down the highway at 75 MPH, weave in and out of traffic, take chances on the road, ride the bumper of the car in front of you, scream at other drivers, or exhibit other signs of road rage, you’re showing your teen that the rules don’t count – and this can be fatal”. By wearing your seat belt, putting away the cell phone, and obeying the rules of the road, you can show your child the safe way to drive.
Practice, Practice, Practice!
Many parents don’t realize it, but the #1 threat to their teen’s safety is driving or riding in a car with a teen driver.
Practice makes perfect! Inexperience is the leading cause of teen crashes. In 2011 the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute identified that three out of four serious teen driver crashes are due to this. The only way for a teen driver to get better is to practice. Have them drive as much as they can. Ideally, 40 – 50 hours of supervised driver experience is recommended. Even 30 minutes a week can make a big difference. Start them off driving during the day, gradually building on this by having them drive at night and in bad weather.
Mix it up! If they are only driving to and from school each day they are not getting the opportunity to experience other types of roads and driving conditions. City driving and interstate driving are very different from a quiet county road. They need to experience as many different driving scenarios as possible.
The Teenage Brain
Think of your teen’s brain as an exciting, rapidly-changing work in progress, one that needs to be both nurtured by new ideas and experiences and protected from harmful substances and situations. Different parts of the brain mature at different rates. The amygdala, a walnut-shaped area deep in the brain, is involved in emotions and reactions. It develops sooner than the prefrontal cortex, the center of thinking that helps control mood and impulses. This mismatch in development (the prefrontal cortex may not fully mature until around age 25) explains why your teen thinks rationally much of the time but may be impulsive when emotions are high, such as when hanging out with friends.
Your teen may look like an adult, but he’s not. He’s still developing, physically and emotionally. That’s why he needs your support, especially in helping to think through tough social situations and to set protective boundaries. It’s best to work on building these skills when your teen is calm so that they come naturally when emotions are high.
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Parent-Teen Driving Agreement
In addition to making sure that your teen gets plenty of practice driving, it is also important to provide them with rules to keep them safe. Once you have established what they are, make sure that you discuss each rule with your teen, why they are important and what the consequences will be if they don’t follow them. Consider drafting and signing a driving agreement with your teen to help reinforce the rules. This way everyone is on the same page.
Sample driving agreement: