Did you know that vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers? Of course, drivers of all ages can cause or be the victim of a car accident, but new drivers are statistically more likely to make mistakes while driving that can end in tragedy.
That said, learning how to drive and having opportunities to do so are important milestones in a teenager’s life. A license can mean freedom and independence, the ability to work an after-school job, and a decreased reliance on Mom and Dad for rides.
Before your teen gets behind the wheel, there are a few steps you can take to ensure that they — and everyone else on the road — are as safe as possible. Read on to learn more!
The average driver’s education course only offers about six hours of hands-on training time. That’s not nearly enough to help a teenager gain the necessary skills to operate a vehicle! Experts recommend closer to 50 hours, or two hours each week for six months, of behind-the-wheel experience.
Contrary to popular opinion, teaching your teenager how to drive doesn’t have to be an anxiety-inducing nightmare. In fact, once he or she has the essentials down, getting in driving practice can be a wonderful way to bond and spend quality time together.
However, it’s probably a good idea to enroll your child in an extensive training program taught by professionals, in addition to the lessons you give in the nearest empty parking lot.
Set Ground Rules and Consequences
Once your teen gets their license and begins driving, it’s important to set some ground rules — and consequences for breaking them. Naturally, you will want to talk to your kids about the dangers of drinking and driving, texting and driving, and driving while they are sleep-deprived. Make it clear that you will not tolerate reckless driving, either.
Many parents choose to have their teen sign a safe driving contract setting out the expectations for safe driving. The act of signing a contract can help convey the seriousness of the situation, and the document itself also spells out exactly what will happen in the event that the teenager violates the rules.
Invest in Roadside Assistance
A roadside assistance plan can provide parents with peace of mind. While you certainly plan on being available to come to your teen’s rescue if they ever blow a tire or get into a fender-bender, it’s not always possible. And unless you own a tow truck, you might need some additional help anyway!
Before purchasing a plan, check with your insurance carrier to see if they offer roadside assistance. Some auto warranties also provide this type of service. Once you have a plan in place, explain what it offers to your teenager, and teach them when to call for help.
Teach Your Children Well
Another way to help your teenager gain confidence as a driver is to equip them with knowledge about cars in general. Take a day to walk your child through the basics of car maintenance. At a minimum, you will want to cover how to:
- Fill up the tank with gas
- Check tires pressure, and how to fill tires with air
- Check and refill fluids such as oil, coolant, and wiper fluid
- Change a tire
If you live in an area of the country that gets winter weather, teach them what to do if they get stuck in the snow, go into a skid, or hit a patch of ice.
Be certain that the car your teenager will be driving, whether it’s theirs exclusively or a family car, is equipped with an emergency tool kit and all of the essentials, like water bottles, nonperishable foods, extra blankets, spare chargers, a flashlight, duct tape, flares, and so on.
It’s also a smart idea to talk to your teen driver about what to do if they are involved in an accident.
“Accidents are always scary, but they can be especially so for new drivers,” explains Adrian Miguel of SteinLaw, Aventura personal injury lawyers. “Emotions and adrenaline run high, so if your new driver has an idea of what to expect, it can really help her make good choices in a difficult moment.”
Final Thoughts on Having a Teenage Driver in the House
It’s certainly nerve wracking the first (and second, and third, and four-hundredth!) time you see your child get behind the wheel. But if you have taken these steps to help prepare your teen driver, it will be easier to hand over the keys. And remember that you’ve successfully navigated all of your children’s milestones so far!
Do you have a teenager who’s learning how to drive? Did you ask them to sign a safe driving contract? Let us know about your experience by commenting below.