Cruising down the strip in my mini-van, windows down, friends in tow, listening to some sort of 90's hair band without a care in the world… now that was the life. I remember how fun it was to finally turn 16, drive around the town feeling 100 feet tall because I was an adult (in my eyes). I don't remember seeing my parents act nervous or scared… although I'm sure after I pulled out of the driveway they were a nervous wreck.
Driving as a teenager carries a hefty amount of responsibility and when your child smiles big for that first license picture, your stomach may drop. Chances are you have heard the stories, seen the statistics or maybe firsthand witnessed teenage driving accidents. That's because traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in America, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In fact, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers.
The NHTSA reports that each year more than 5,000 teens (ages 16-20) are killed in passenger vehicle crashes and during 2006 a teen died in a traffic crash an average of every hour on weekends and once every two hours during the week.
Don't let these statistics keep your teen in the house forever, but set some rules that reiterate the importance of responsible driving. I think I did a pretty good job as a teen. I credit it to the fact that our grandparents lived with us and I drove them back and forth to McDonalds every night. Besides anticipating the delicious hamburgers, I remember thinking that I had to drive carefully because I didn't want anything to happen to them. Whether your teen has a grandparent or younger sibling they are responsible for or are on their own, these tips should help point them in the right direction.
- Buckle up always! The car shouldn't even start before everyone in it has their seat belt fastened.
- No alcohol or drugs. Explain the consequences of being caught with alcohol or drugs in their vehicle and that they are responsible for what is in the car, even if it is not theirs. (That one seemed to help me say no to my peers a lot in high school.)
- No texting or talking on the phone while driving.
- Curfew: Think about heading home when it starts getting dusk out.
- Passengers: No more than one at a time.
- No speeding.
- Don't drive while sleepy. According to the AAA Foundation , driving sleepy slows reaction time, impairs judgement and is similar to driving drunk.
- Drive defensively.
- Pay attention. (You would think this would come automatically, but even as adults we need to be reminded.)
Driving is an important responsibility and the way your teen learns to drive today is how they will drive tomorrow. Remind them that driving is a privilege—not to be taken lightly or for granted. Getting behind the wheel can be a great rite of passage…just make sure it's the right passage they are driving down. How did you handle your teen driving years?
Your safety is number one to us. Stay safe wherever you choose to go on the road.