Your teen has just achieved a major milestone: obtaining the coveted driver’s license!!! While this is a moment for celebration, it is also the time to have a discussion with your teen about road safety, and to set the rules you expect your teen to follow when they are behind the wheel.
- Safe Cars. To ensure your teen’s safety on the road, make sure that your teen is driving a safe car. When choosing the right car for your teen, safety and reliability are top priorities. Key things to look for are advanced safety features, such as anti-lock brakes, front and side air bags, head restraints, and electronic stability control.
- Set Ground Rules. Remind your teen that driving is a privilege, not a right. Make sure that your teen clearly understands what they can and can’t do while behind the wheel, and what the consequences are when your teen breaks the rules. Be sure to follow through with the consequences if your teen does break the rules.
- Follow Your Own Advice. Your teen will not develop good driving habits if you do not make an effort to practice good habits. If you have told your teen that he or she is not allowed to use a cell phone while driving, make sure you don’t use your cell phone either.
- NO Cell Phone and NO Texting. Texting and driving are the leading cause of driving injuries and deaths in the United States each year. Using a cell phone, even if it is hands free, is distracting, as your teen’s focus will not be on the road. According to the NHTSA, it takes approximately five seconds to read an incoming text. If your teen is reading a text and driving at 55 mph, that is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blind. In that five second timeframe, your teen will miss key audio and visual cues that would alert them to potential hazards in the road, and reduce the likelihood of an accident. Limit your teen’s cell phone use to emergencies only, and tell them that if they have to make a call, that they should pull off the road.
- Designate Check Ins. Have your teen call you once they have reached his or her destination. When they are ready to leave, have your teen call you before hitting the road. This will eliminate any uncertainty as to your teen’s safety when they are out and about on the road.
- Limit Number of Passengers. Be sure to pay close attention to PennDOT’s rules regarding passenger limitations for teens with junior driver’s licenses. A good rule of thumb is that the number of passengers should not exceed the number of seatbelts in the car. Everyone in the car should also be wearing a seatbelt.
- Zero Tolerance Drinking Policy. According to the CDC, youths aged 12-20 imbibe 11% of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. With a statistic like this, it’s really important to have a discussion about drinking and driving with your teen. Be sure your teen is clear that it’s unsafe to drink and drive. Be sure your teen knows the consequences for drinking and driving.
- Minimize Night Driving. Limit your teen’s driving to daytime hours, especially when your teen has just received his or her license. The NHTSA indicates that 16% of teen driving fatalities (ages 15-19) happen between 9:00 p.m. and midnight. Night driving poses challenges even for experienced drivers. A new driver will have more difficulty judging speed of other cars and distance. Further, newer drivers are more likely to become fatigued behind the wheel. Another reason to limit your teen’s night driving hours, is that PennDOT imposes a curfew for teen drivers who hold a junior driver’s license. These curfews are strictly enforced by police officers.
Sources: NHTSA and DMV.org