“Car crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, and teenage boys are twice as likely to die as teenage girls,” according to The Washington Post and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
With such grim statistics, it is no wonder that parents fret over teaching their teenagers to drive. With some care and planning, parents can teach kids how to drive and do it with confidence. Follow these tips from the experts for peace of mind.
1. Teach Defensive Driving
Teach teenagers to exercise caution at all times. Begin by teaching teens important safety tips and basics before starting the car. Teens need to buckle up whenever they get into the car —and you do, too!
Once inside and buckled up, review the basics with your child. Show them where to find the headlights and how to switch from low to high beams. Demonstrate how to adjust the mirrors and point out the air conditioning, heating, windshield wipers, turn signals, and other various controls. Knowing where to find these buttons will help keep teens’ eyes on the road.
Once on the road, impress the importance of maintaining a cushion distance of at least one car length per every 10 miles per hour (mph) between other cars. For example, when traveling 30 mph maintain a distance of three car lengths; when traveling 60 mph, stay six car lengths behind the nearest vehicle. Teach kids to check mirrors and blind spots frequently, and teach your teens to leave adequate time for braking.
2. Teach By Example: Follow The Speed Limit
Advise teens to abide by all signage — and make a point to do it yourself, especially when they are in the car with you. The world’s fastest mass-produced car dating as far back as 1954, the 300 SL, is capable of reaching speeds up to 146 miles per hour.
Teach teens that any tidbits along these lines are strictly for fun or trivia. Talk about the importance of sticking to the speed limit, and the consequences of dangerous behaviors, like pushing any vehicle to its limits.
As with signage, stress the importance of sticking to the rules. Only permit teens to drive during the times and circumstances designated by their current license and/or state laws.
3. Talk To Teens About Drinking And Driving
Talk to kids about drinking and driving! It is important to have these conversations with all teenagers, even teens who may seem like unlikely candidates for underage drinking. Kids may be pressured into drinking by their peers or hide their drinking from you.
Here is how to talk about the dangers of drunk driving:
- Don’t sugarcoat it. Drunk driving kills 28 people per day. Make sure teens know the facts — even and especially if they seem grim. Teens may be prone to take chances otherwise.
- Make it very clear that teens can rely on you to pick them up if they have been drinking too much or if one of their friends drinks too much. Encourage teens to be as open as possible. Avoid angry outbursts that may make teens scared to approach you in a bind.
- If teens violate rules about underage drinking and drinking and driving consider measures like a defensive driving course or a DUI risk reduction course to firmly and appropriately discourage these behaviors.
- Be consistent. Go over the rules before teens leave for friends’ houses and social outings. Do not assume a one-time conversation will be enough to get the message across.
- Let kids know that buzzed driving — getting in a car after just one or two drinks — and driving after smoking marijuana is dangerous, too.
- Talk about comparative behaviors, things like driving while extremely fatigued and driving while distracted and/or texting. Be upfront that these actions kill as well.
4. Drive On Busy Roads And Back Roads, Navigate Crowded Intersections
One of the reasons new drivers are supposed to log so many hours with an adult in the car is to get experience. Do your part to make sure that experience is thorough and varied. In other words, you do not want the first time your teen faces any given situation to be when they are alone in the vehicle without you.
Expose teens to back roads, busy roads, highways, crowded intersections, and bumper-to-bumper traffic — when they are ready and as their current skill level permits, of course. For example, traffic in Northern Illinois is so bad commuters spent 61 additional hours on the road in 2014. That’s the same amount of time as a week-and-a-half of work. Teens who may face similar commutes need to know how to drive in them!
Help teens learn how to safely and properly cross railroad tracks. Teach teens to navigate the roads at night. Practice safe driving in wet conditions, icy conditions, and snowy conditions if applicable to your area.
5. Equip Teens With Routine Car Maintenance Knowledge
A critical step many parents skip is teaching teens how to maintain their vehicles. Kids should know how to pump gas, get an oil change, and perform other routine car upkeep and maintenance. Remind children to check gas gauges frequently, and keep the gas tank at least one-quarter full to keep the car running at its best. Purchase an inexpensive pressure gauge for teens, teach them how to check the air in their tires, and fill tires with more air if need be.
It is also wise to teach young drivers how to jump-start a vehicle and change a tire. The last thing you want is for your child to be stuck on the side of the road. While emergency roadside services are typically available, that is not always a guarantee. Remote areas may not have cell reception, and teens would be left without any way to contact help if they need it.
Did you know that teens have the lowest seatbelt rates? Educate yourself about the risks of teen driving, and use that knowledge to teach your teen the safest possible driving practices. Get a head start using the tips above!