If you have a teen, you have watched your child move from child-safety seats, to the backseat, and finally the driver’s seat. While your teen driver might know the rules of the road from Driver’s Education better than you do, your job as parents isn’t over just because he or she got a driver’s license. In fact, your job is more important now than ever.
More than 123,000 teen drivers age 15-20 were involved in fatal car crashes in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of those crashes, over 2679 teen drivers died. Yes, parents buried seven teen drivers per day in 2014.
It’s National Teen Driver Safety Week through October 22nd, 2016. This is an opportunity to remind your teen driver of your safe-driving expectations and to become familiar with all the tools that can help keep your child safe while driving.
Any parent who has had to bury a child will tell you that there are no words to describe the pain. We all get busy with our lives, work, and other distractions. I would suggest to you there is nothing more important than teaching your child the dangers of driving, but that is not enough…you need to continually reinforce and monitor your child’s driving. Here are some things you can do to make a difference:
Parent-Teen Driving Contract: You can use the contract that I recommend or create one of your own, but be sure to outline when your teen can and can’t drive or get in the car with another teen driver. This should be done as a family and taken seriously. Sit down; go over the contract line by line, without distractions. Everyone should have his or her cell phones off for this meeting. We have a great contract, written by an Austin, TX-area judge that listens to our show on our website. Click here for the link.
Use Technology: Several automakers offer in-car monitoring to make sure that your teen isn’t driving too fast or out of your agreed-upon area. There are a lot of aftermarket systems out there too, that will text you if your child speeds, or leaves boundaries that you set. If your child knows you are watching, and there are consequences, he or she is more likely to adhere to the rules of the contract.
A New Set of Wheels: If you’re considering buying your teen a new car, be sure to check the car’s crash-test scores before signing on the dotted line. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has a small overlap front crash test that simulates a 40-mph collision with a tree or light pole. You can refer to my article on this subject. Click here for the link.
Set a Good Example: As a parent, you know that your actions often speak louder than your words. So make sure your cellphone is put away whenever you’re behind the wheel, allowing you to set a good example for your teen driver.
Distracted Driving: If your child is going to have an accident, statistics tell us that distracted driving is the #1 cause of accidents. Limit the number of teenagers your child can have in the car. This is especially an issue for male teen drivers, they are twice as likely to have a wreck with just one passenger, and as more people get in the car, the odds of an accident skyrocket.
Don’t Be Naïve: We all think our children are little angels. Among male teen drivers from 16-19 years of age, recent stats show that of teen deaths in cars, 35% were speeding, and 25% were legally drunk. 55% of male and female passengers admitted to not wearing their seat belts when they were riding in another teen’s car.
Take it from me: This is a serious issue, the numbers bear out that as a parent, you should constantly speak to your teen driver about his or her driving habits. I have lost a child and I know the pain that I hope none of you ever know. Losing a child is an exclusive club that nobody wants to be a member of.