It's never too early to start teaching your kids about safe driving.
Even before your teen gets a learner's permit, you can start using your time in the car together as an opportunity to get her thinking like a driver and talking about how to be safe.
Teen Driving Safety Tips>
Set the Example
One of the toughest rules to adhere to is "practice what you preach." There are plenty of teachable moments for you to talk about safe driving with your kids, starting as early as age 13, when they’re old enough to sit next to you in the front seat. If you don't want your teen talking on a cell phone or eating while driving, don't do those things when your teen is a passenger with you. Always buckle your seat belt before you start the car. Make sure you're not speeding or tailgating. Try not to drive if you're angry or tired. Pull over to use your cell phone or have your passenger answer it instead. Don't mess with your music or reach for a map. Pull over and explain the need to devote your full attention to the road. Demonstrating the safe driving behaviors you want your kids to develop is the first step in preparing them for driving.
Practice, Practice, Practice
It’s very important that you allow your teen as much supervised practice behind the wheel as possible. Download the driving record to the right to keep track of practice time.
Keep it Interesting
Vary the routes, time of day and driving conditions to help the new driver in your family gain confidence in a variety of driving situations.
Gradually Introduce New Privileges
Night driving, driving with passengers and driving without a destination are all factors that contribute to high crash rates. Set ground rules before your teen driver is licensed.
No Passengers For At Least 6 Months
A teen's risk of being involved in a crash increases exponentially with each peer passenger in the car. Until you're sure your teen can manage passengers and other distractions responsibly, insist that no driving be done unless an adult is present. Then, allow only one teen passenger and gradually increase the number of teen passengers allowed in the car. Teach your new driver that it's okay to tell passengers, "Please don't distract me while I'm driving."
Only Daytime Driving For At Least 6 Months
Teens' crash risk increases at night. For the first six months, your teen shouldn't drive after 10 p.m. Gradually allow later driving–perhaps by half-hour increments.
Wait a Bit Before Buying Him a Car
It's not recommended that teen drivers be immediately given a car of their own. For the first year or so, share the family car. This allows parents to control access to the vehicle–which makes it easier to agree on conditions of use (wearing a seat belt, no passengers, no cell phone, responsibility for gas/repairs, etc.).
Teach Your Teen How to "Scan" for Hazards
One of the most common problems young drivers have is scanning their surroundings for potential hazards. They tend to look only as far as the car in front of them, "blinding" them to road conditions further ahead, and reducing their space to react to hazards. During your supervised driving practice, remind your teen to keep an eye on the traffic several cars ahead and to the sides, looking for brake lights, traffic signals, roadblocks, pedestrians or emergency vehicles.
Parent/Teen Driver Contract
Teens experience a new sense of freedom when they get their licenses. But they often don't understand the responsibilities that come with the privilege. Parents can help by drawing up a driving contract, before turning over the keys, that clearly states the family rules as well as the consequences for breaking them. The contract should address safety, good driving skills and particular situations involving the car:
- Which car(s) is your teen allowed to drive? The car should have a driver's side airbag, a good safety rating and be easy to maneuver.
- What car care – putting gas into the car, oil changes, tire pressure and regular maintenance requirements – is your teen responsible for?
- What are your expectations regarding car clutter – keeping the car clean inside and out and free of trash?
- Who pays for insurance? Insurance rates for teens are often twice the rates for adults because teens have an average of three accidents between the ages of 16 and 20. Insurance rates will rise with each accident, sometimes costing thousands of dollars per year.
The contract should also stress safe driving practices, including:
- Always obey the speed limit and traffic laws.
- Always wear seat belts and make sure all passengers are
- buckled up before driving.
- No drinking/drug use. Driving while impaired is one of the leading causes of fatality in vehicle crashes. The contract should state that drinking and driving isn’t allowed, that there should never be alcohol in the car, and that your teen should never be a passenger in a car with a driver who has been drinking or using drugs. Assure your teen that she can always call you to come get her if she get stranded at a gathering.
- No driving with friends in the car for the first six to 12 months. Distractions are one of the main causes of accidents for new drivers.
- No using cell phones or texting while driving.
- Always letting you know where he’s going and when he plans to return.
- Curfew expectations. Night driving is especially difficult for new drivers and more accidents happen in the 9 p.m.-2 a.m. timeframe than during the daylight hours. Set realistic curfews, but also tell your teen that if she’s running late, it's always better to drive safely than speed to make up the minutes, and to call you if possible to let you know she’s on the way home.
The contract should specify what happens if the rules are broken. Get your teen's input on appropriate penalties. For example, a speeding ticket might result in the loss of driving privilege for a week and having to pay for the ticket. Download a sample contract to the right.