A survey of teenaged drivers reveals that most are distracted by cell phone use, fatigue and others’ behavior in the car. These factors, along with failure to use seat belts, contribute to a fatality rate for 16-19-year-old drivers that is four times that of adults.
“Teens described a driving environment that would be challenging even to experienced drivers,” says Dr. Flaura Winston of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
It is a good idea to set up a Driving Contract with your teen that can help instill some responsibilities before turning over the keys. This contract will clearly state the family rules as well as the consequences for breaking them. The contract should address safety, good driving skills and particular situations that they may find themselves. Here is a list from TeenDriving.com of areas that the contract should follow:
- Which car(s) your teen is allowed to drive. The contract should specify clearly. The car you choose for your teen to drive should have a driver’s side airbag, a good safety rating, and be easy to maneuver.
- Good car care: putting gas in when needed, oil changes, tire pressure, and regular maintenance. Also, keeping the car free of clutter and trash.
- Insurance decisions. If your teen will be paying for their own insurance, the contract is a great place to have it stated. Some parents find that having their teen pay for insurance provides some incentive for avoiding reckless on-road behavior that often results in accidents.
- Always obey the speed limit and traffic laws, and always wear seat belts. They should make sure any passengers are buckled up as well.
- Let you know where they are coming and going.
- Never use cell phones while driving. This is incredibly important to stress to them.
- Never engage in drinking or drug use. Always be vigilant in watching for signs of alcohol or drug use by your kids. Driving while impaired is one of the leading causes of death in car accidents. The contract should state that teens are not allowed to drink and drive, have alcohol in the car, or even be a passenger in a car with a driver who has been drinking or using drugs. Make sure that they know they can always call you to come get them if they get stranded at a gathering.
- Not drive with friends in the car for a while. We suggest that teens not be allowed to drive with friends or even younger siblings in the car for the first six to twelve months of having their license, unless an adult is also in the car. Friends or siblings can be huge distractions.
- Have a curfew. Night driving is especially difficult for a new driver, and more accidents happen in the 9pm-2am time frame than during the daylight hours. Set realistic curfews, but also tell teens that if they are running late, it’s always better to drive safely than speed to make up the minutes.
How can you help your teen or grandchild? Get safe driving tips online at www.teendriving.com.