Evaluate your teen’s readiness – Teenagers mature, develop emotionally and become responsible at varying rates, which parents need to gauge as they determine when their teen is ready to drive.
Be a Role Model – Teens learn from their parents’ driving habits. Parents’ actions behind the wheel influence the driving behavior of their teens. Research from the Foundation for Traffic Safety found that, when using the number of collisions and traffic tickets as criteria, the parents of teens involved in crashes were more likely to have poor driving records than the parents of collision-free teens.
Eliminate Disraction – Cell phones and text messaging can be hazardous distractions for teen drivers. Beginning July 1, 2008, California law will ban inexperienced teen drivers from using cell phones and other wireless communication devices while driving. Parents should not wait for the law to take effect in order to encourage changes in driving behavior that could prevent a deadly crash.
Restrict passengers and night driving – Extensive research indicates that a teen driver’s chances of crashing increases with each additional teen passenger. Parents need to make sure they know who is driving with their teen at all times. Research shows teen crash rates spike at night and that most night time crashes occur between 9 p.m. and midnight. California law already places restrictions on inexperienced teen drivers carrying passengers and driving at night, but parents can protect their teen drivers by enforcing the regulations and extending them beyond the mandatory first year of driving.
Choose the safest vehicle – As the family member most likely to crash, a teen should drive the safest vehicle the family owns. Factors to consider are vehicle type, size and safety technology:
•Sedans are generally safer than sports cars, SUVs and pickup trucks.
•Larger vehicles generally fare better in crashes than smaller vehicles.
•Front and side air bags, anti-lock brakes and stability control systems make it easier to avoid crashes and improve teens’ chances of surviving should they crash.
Practice – Supervised driving lessons with parents provide teens with opportunities to enhance learning, reinforce proper driving skills and receive constructive feedback from the people who care most about their safety and success.
Encourage teens to get enough sleep – Teens need about nine hours of sleep every night, but many teens get far less rest because of early-morning school start times, homework, sports, after-school jobs and other activities. A lack of sleep can negatively affect vision, hand-eye coordination, reaction time and judgment.
Weekly review and discussion – Parental involvement and communication is critical in the prevention of teen-related crashes, injuries and fatalities. Designate a time each week to address any concerns of both parents and teen, review the teen’s driving performance and chart the progression towards established goals and benchmarks.