This spring, a 17-year-old driver was charged with negligent homicide for running over a jogger. The driver allegedly was using her smartphone to surf the Internet when the deadly crash occurred. In another case, an 18-year-old man was under the influence of alcohol when he and his passenger were killed in a car crash. Tragic stories like this are a reminder that teens either don’t know or don’t understand the possible consequences of reckless driving.
If it’s time for your teenage family member to start driving, now’s the time to have a serious talk about safe, responsible driving.
Teenagers may not be aware how deadly driving can be, even though car crashes are the number one cause of death for teenagers in the United States. And teens who have six months or less of driving experience have the highest chance of being involved in a fatal car accident. Male teens are twice as likely as females to die in a car accident.
Share these statistics with your child. While he may have seen public service announcements about the dangers of drinking or texting while driving, he may be more likely to take that information seriously if he hears it from you.
Setting an example
From the time they are born, children tend to mimic what their parents do. So when you’re behind the wheel, set a good example about safe driving. Obey traffic laws, wear your safety belt and avoid “multitasking” while driving. Keep your cell phone in the console and ignore it, and when you talk to your passengers, keep your eyes on the road. Explain to teens that when they’re talking to passengers, they should keep watching the road.
When your teen begins driving, hop in the passenger seat and ride along. Observe any potentially dangerous actions and correct them right away. But offer compliments if your teen is being a conscientious driver.
Enroll your child in a professional driver education course and offer to help with take-home assignments. If the driver education course doesn’t send one home with your teen, consider creating your own driving contract. Make sure your teen understands that driving is a privilege, not a right, and one that can be revoked if she breaks the driving contract. But lessons don’t have to be punitive to get the point across – if your child maintains a clean driving record , she may be able to save money on insurance premiums.
By setting a good example when you drive and having frank discussions with your teen about safety, you may be able to prevent behavior that can lead to crashes.