More teens die in automobile accidents than from any other cause in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that, of the young drivers killed, 32 percent had been drinking alcohol. If you are teaching a teen to drive, both skills and responsibility should be a part of your lesson plan.
Hit the Keyboard as Well as the Road
Many states now offer their driver’s guide online, enabling your teen to easily download the rules of the road. A simple search for “driver guide” and the name of the state in which you live will bring back the government website where you can find it.
There also are free online driving permit practice tests available, such as those from Driving-Tests.org. These tests include state-specific information on everything from road signs to traffic citations, prepping your teen to apply for his or her driver’s permit. The website has an app for Apple devices for learning on the go.
Many parents create a lesson plan for their new drivers that combines old-fashioned studying, practice tests and behind-the-wheel instruction. As an incentive, you can even award a certain amount of driving time in an empty parking lot for every practice test passed.
Discuss the Responsibility That Comes With Driving
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers get into three times as many accidents as those 20 or older. The problem stems from both inexperience and immaturity.
New drivers do not yet recognize all potentially hazardous situations, nor do they react as well to them as more experienced drivers. These particular skills develop over time, but you can promote safe driving by telling your teen to pull over in dangerous weather, even if it means arriving late to school or home. A quick call ahead while stopped keeps everyone apprised of the situation.
You can help develop maturity behind the wheel more quickly. Discuss with your teen the various scenarios they may face as a driver and how to handle them responsibly. For example, many states restrict the passengers a young driver may carry, and for good reason. The CDC reports that the crash risk for unsupervised teen drivers goes up if they have fellow teens as passengers, and the risk increases with each number of teen passengers.
Talk about how to handle requests for rides from fellow teens, whether they are legally allowed or not. “It’s not worth losing my license or driving privileges to give you a ride” works as an answer a fellow teen might not like but should understand.
Also have a direct discussion about underage drinking and the damage it can do. More than 10,000 people died in drunk-driving crashes in 2012, according to the NHTSA. That works out to one every 51 minutes. Included in those numbers are not only the drunk drivers but also other drivers, passengers and bystanders. If you know a family impacted by such an accident, use it as an example of how such irresponsibility can destroy lives.
As with everything in life, keep in mind that your teen looks to you for guidance. Use your own actions to reinforce these important lessons.