Tips for Parents
This section of TeenDriving.com is especially for the parents or guardian of the new driver. You guys need tips, too! Here we give you a few pointers on teaching your kid(s) to drive and how to be a good example, how to draw up a “teen driving contract”, tracking your kid’s progress, and what safety products they may need to keep in the car.
Teaching Teens to Drive
Teenagers dream about getting their driver’s license. Having that official piece of identification tucked in their wallet opens up a new world of choices, responsibilities, and freedom. However, car accidents are the leading cause of death for 15-20 year olds, accounting for forty percent of all teen deaths. Teaching your teen to be a safe, careful driver can make the difference in their survival behind the wheel.
What can you, as a parent, do to help them learn as they drive themselves around, go to parties, take road trips with their friends, and pick up their siblings? It’s an effort that takes time, knowledge, and patience. The tips below can help.
- Provide lots of in-car, “passenger seat” supervision.
- Start off with small trips – less then five miles away – to build up their confidence.
- Provide a safe car for teens to drive: easy to maneuver, with airbags and good tires.
- Give your teen gentle, constructive critiques of their driving, and keep your temper in check.
- Set realistic goals, expectations, and consequences for your teen driver. If you make rules, stick to them.
- Make sure your teen knows exactly what to do in the event of an accident.
- Pick up a current driver’s guide from your DMV. Study it with your teen and point out when they are obeying these rules on the road. If they aren’t, gently point that out to correct them.
- Set a good example. If you run red and yellow lights, speed down the highway at 75 MPH, weave in and out of traffic, take chances on the road, ride the bumper of the car in front of you, scream at other drivers, or exhibit other signs of road rage, you’re showing your teen that the rules don’t count – and this can be fatal.
Teen Driving Contract
When teens negotiate their own set of car keys, parents often worry that they’ve said goodbye to all control. It’s true that teens experience a new sense of freedom when they get their license, but they don’t always understand the responsibilities that come with the privilege. Teens have an average of three accidents between the ages 16 and 20. Parents can help instill some responsibilities by drawing up a “driving contract” before turning over the keys that clearly states the family rules as well as the consequences for breaking them. A contract should address safety, good driving skills, and particular situations in the following areas. The contract should cover the following areas:
- Which car(s) your teen is allowed to drive. The contract should specify clearly. The car you choose for your teen to drive should have a driver’s side airbag, a good safety rating, and be easy to maneuver.
- Good car care: putting gas in when needed, oil changes, tire pressure, and regular maintenance. Also, keeping the car free of clutter and trash.
- Insurance decisions. If your teen will be paying for their own insurance, the contract is a great place to have it stated. Some parents find that having their teen pay for insurance provides some incentive for avoiding reckless on-road behavior that often results in accidents.
- Always obey the speed limit and traffic laws, and always wear seat belts. They should make sure any passengers are buckled up as well.
- Let you know where they are coming and going.
- Never use cell phones while driving. This is incredibly important to stress to them.
- Never engage in drinking or drug use. Always be vigilant in watching for signs of alcohol or drug use by your kids. Driving while impaired is one of the leading causes of death in car accidents. The contract should state that teens are not allowed to drink and drive, have alcohol in the car, or even be a passenger in a car with a driver who has been drinking or using drugs. Make sure that they know they can always call you to come get them if they get stranded at a gathering.
- Not drive with friends in the car for a while. We suggest that teens not be allowed to drive with friends or even younger siblings in the car for the first six to twelve months of having their license, unless an adult is also in the car. Friends or siblings can be huge distractions.
- Have a curfew. Night driving is especially difficult for a new driver, and more accidents happen in the 9pm-2am time frame than during the daylight hours. Set realistic curfews, but also tell teens that if they are running late, it’s always better to drive safely than speed to make up the minutes.
Teaching your Teen how to drive is just the first step in their journey to becoming a safe driver. Follow these tips to help them along the way.
- Be available to answer any specific questions. It may be best to have a day and time each week to discuss any driving related issues.
- Let them drive to local places with one parent as the passenger. This allows you to see first-hand how they are driving and it builds trust.
- Strike a balance between responsible parenting and being over-protective. There are devices that track speeding, hard braking, location, etc., but make sure you teen is comfortable if using one of these devices. It is important to have your teen buy-in to becoming a safe driver rather then having a device forced upon them.
- Have your teen keep a mileage log and review it at least once a month with them.
- Don’t get upset by an accident. Teen drivers make mistakes, and the most important thing is their safety and learning from these mistakes.
The last thing you want for your kid(s) is for them to be stranded somewhere with a dead phone and a flat tire without the tools to get home. Make sure they have adequate safety products in their car at all times.
- Car emergency kits should be inside every vehicle. They should include cable ties, a flashlight, batteries, road flares, a lighter, duct tape, a bungee cord, gloves, a screwdriver, and a road safety guide.
- Tire gauges are good to keep in your car.
- You should keep a spare tire in your car, as well as a jack and a lug wrench that fit your car.
- It may be a good idea to keep a basic first aid kit in your car.
- Things like a spare GPS, a portable phone charger, toilet paper, bottled water, and snack food with a long shelf life are handy in case you get stranded in your car.
- If you live in a high-crime area, you may want to consider investing into a steering wheel lock.