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Coaching your teenage driver

Mar 13 2015

For teenagers, getting your license is a right of passage. It's a symbol of growing up and having more freedom, but it also comes with more responsibility. Most teenagers seem to have a feeling of invincibility, which is great, but it needs to be tempered with an increased sense of responsibility especially behind the wheel. That's where parents come in.

For parents, there can be lots of mixed emotions. You celebrate your child achieving a milestone, yet you may worry about the risks. Accidents happen even to experienced drivers, but research indicates that the greatest risk of auto accidents is among teenage drivers. The California Department of Motor Vehicles reports that the fatal crash rate for 16- to 19-year-olds is 2.7 times higher than for drivers of all ages. So, there is a justification for parents' concerns. Yet, all of us went through the same thing when we got our licenses.

The challenge is to find the right balance of setting driving safety rules and guidelines to help your teenager gain experience without nagging that could cause them to tune out.   The best way to teach a teenager good driving habits is for parents to demonstrate themconsistently before the teenager gets his/her license. But, it's also good to pass along dos and don'ts thorugh a formal coaching discussion every now and then.

Below are some tips from the International Risk Management Institute, for parents to pass on to their sons and daughters who are now getting behind the wheel for the first time.

Tips for Teenage Driving Safety

  1. Establish initial ground rules for the use of the car. These rules, perhaps in the form of a contract, should include restrictions on the number of friends in the car, circumscribed use of the radio, where and how the car may be used, and curfew times. Curtailment of the right to drive should be spelled out.
  2. Ban cell phone use. Parents should emphasize that the cell phone must be turned off and unavailable while the teen is driving. (It's the law in Massachusetts and other state, but just because it's the law doesn't mean it won't happen, so reinforce the ban.)
  3. Prohibit drinking and driving. Parents should emphasize that there be no exceptions to this ironclad rule. 
  4. Keep distractions to a minimum. This includes talking with friends, eating, and playing with the radio/audio system.
  5. Practice defensive driving. Techniques include maintaining a safe distance from cars ahead of the driver, closely monitoring traffic in adjacent lanes, and taking a defensive driving class. 
  6. Follow the speed limit. Research indicates that high driving speed is a significant contributor to fatal teen accidents.
  7. Choose a safe auto for your teen. Autos with excellent crash safety records and the latest safety equipment, including air bags and electronic stability control, could reduce your teen's chances of being injured in an auto accident. 

Copyright 2015  International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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