Driving. A beacon of freedom and a rite of passage for teenagers. For parents, one more thing to worry about.
Parents are right to be concerned. Drivers between 16 and 19 years old are almost three times more likely than older drivers to be involved in a deadly crash. It’s sobering.
While it’s impossible to protect your child from every situation, there are steps you can take to mentor and help your teen become a safe driver.
1. Provide ample opportunity to gain experience.
Think about the last time you learned how to do something new. Were you immediately perfect? Probably not, and certainly not if the activity being learned was something as complicated as driving.
Begin by learning about and enforcing your state’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) system. Its purpose is to provide new drivers with adequate supervised practice time under prescribed conditions. While each state’s system is different, the most comprehensive systems are associated with a significant reduction of crashes and fatal accidents among 16-year-old drivers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even if your state doesn’t require your teen to enroll in a formal driver’s education class, consider doing so anyway. The more driving hours gained legally and safely, the better.
2. Carefully consider the car your teen will be driving.
Does squeezing into a hot little sports car make you want to drive slowly and carefully? How about crawling up into a lifted pickup truck with a throaty-sounding muffler?
While not every family has the budget to choose their teen’s “ride,” when it is possible to make choices, some are better than others. For example, select a car that doesn’t tempt the inexperienced driver to show off and drive beyond his or her capabilities. Large vehicles that offer more protection may be good choices, but only if they aren’t too big for the new driver to handle.
If a used car is in the budget, look for newer models. They typically have more safety features than older models, such as anti-lock brakes, collision alert, back-up cameras and blind spot warning systems. Kelley Blue Book offers this list of cars to consider for teen drivers.
3. Remove distractions.
Thousands of people are killed each year as a result of distracted driving. Many are innocent bystanders.
Distracted driving activities include anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off the task at hand. According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, texting is one of the biggest distractions. At highway speeds, a driver travels the length of an entire football field with his or her eyes off the road when sending or reading a text.
Make sure your teen driver understands that while the car is moving, there is no phoning, texting, eating, drinking, applying makeup, fixing hair, adjusting mirrors or the radio, or anything else that takes attention away from driving. Also remind your teen to avoid distracting other drivers while he or she is a passenger in someone else’s car, and to never get into a car with someone who texts while driving. Finally, don’t call your teen when you know he or she is driving. If you must call, ask your child to safely pull over and call you back.
4. Enforce the law.
Do you know the motor vehicle laws of the state (or states) in which you drive? If not, it’s time for a refresher so that you can knowledgeably discuss the subject with your teen. If you don’t have a copy of the rules, check your state’s website, your local department of motor vehicles or your driver’s education provider.
Just as important, make sure your new driver understands why the laws are important and the possible consequences of disobeying them (e.g., loss of driving privileges, loss of insurance, injuries, fines, loss of life, imprisonment).
Your new driver should agree to do the following:
- Wear a safety belt and make any passengers do the same.
- Obey speed limits.
- Understand and obey all road and traffic signs.
- Avoid tailgating and driving aggressively.
- Avoid driving impaired (no drugs or alcohol), and never get into a car where the driver has been drinking or taking drugs.
5. Set a good example.
Is your son a “chip off the old block”? Is your daughter your “mini-me”? How’s your driving?
For good or for bad, you are one of your child’s most important role models. In fact, according to the Center for Parenting Education, it’s impossible for parents to not model behaviors, and that applies to driving habits. Do you speed? Do you text while you drive? Do you cut people off? Do you want your child to follow in your footsteps?
To raise safe drivers, parents must model safe driving behaviors. After all, seeing is believing, and “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t cut it with young adults.
New Drivers and Insurance Rates
Many automotive insurance providers offer discounts that reward positive behaviors by young drivers, such as getting good grades in school, enrolling in and completing a driver safety or defensive driving course, and maintaining a good driving record. Talk with your insurer for more information.
If you have questions about adding a new driver to your existing auto insurance policy or would like an auto policy review, contact Hylant.
The above information does not constitute advice. Always contact your insurance broker or trusted advisor for insurance-related questions.