For a teenager, there really isn’t a greater day than getting your driver’s license. And for a parent, it’s probably one of the worst days. Let’s list the range of emotions- stress, anxiety, worry, panic, fear……..I honestly don’t think there are enough words available for the range of emotions parents experience.
We’ve talked to hundreds of teen drivers and their parents over the years. So we’ve compiled that advice here with one goal in mind- to keep your teen driver as safe as possible.
Tips to Keep Your Teenage Drivers Safe
Know the Law
Become familiar with your state’s restrictions on young drivers, and feel free to set tougher rules. To review your state laws, visit this resource that explains graduated licensing laws by state.
The Ohio BMV also lists the process and documents required to obtain a Temporary Permit at 15 1/2, as well as the driving restrictions imposed.
It also outlines the process for obtaining the Probationary Driver License (under age 18), and driving restrictions during the first 6 months, as well as at 12 months and beyond while still under age 18. Personally, knowing these restrictions is super important so you know what your kid can and cannot do. And please note, law enforcement can and will ticket for violations, with serious consequences.
Restrict night driving for teen drivers
About 2 of 5 young drivers’ fatal crashes occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. The problem isn’t just that driving in the dark requires more skill behind the wheel. Late outings tend to be recreational, and even teens that usually follow the rules can be easily distracted or encouraged to take risks. Consider setting an early curfew for your teen, even if your state has a later one.
Restrict passengers for teen drivers
Teenage passengers riding in a vehicle with a beginning driver can distract the driver and encourage greater risk-taking. While driving at night with passengers is particularly lethal, many of the fatal crashes involving teen passengers occur during the day. The best policy is to restrict teenage passengers, especially multiple teens, all the time.
A note to both the restriction of night driving and passengers: although the Ohio graduated driver licensing law offers its own restrictions (and punishments), it’s worth considering imposing your own rules and punishments, even AFTER the state law has ended its requirements.
Educate them about driving for weather conditions
In Ohio, you CAN’T drive in December the way you do in June. Snow, ice, rain, poor visibility- it all makes for a much more hazardous drive. But for some reason, young drivers think they don’t have to alter their driving patterns regardless of time of year. NOT TRUE. When it’s crummy outside, slow down. Give lots of space to the people in front. Leave early so you don’t have to rush. Know how your brakes work- remember, anti-lock brakes work much differently than traditional brakes- you don’t pump anti-lock brakes!
Mandate safe behaviors such as seat belt usage and no usage of digital devices while driving
Don’t think I need to say a whole lot about using your seat belt. So do it.
As to digital devices, if you’ve only been driving a few weeks, how can you pay attention to the road, and change the CD, and talk on your cell phone or send a text message? Simple- you can’t, so don’t even try. If you aren’t paying attention to your driving, then you’re just asking for trouble. The fact remains: younger drivers are simply less experienced at multitasking while driving and are therefore more easily distracted than their older counterparts. So, teens need to pay attention to their driving. Leave the other things alone. PERIOD.
Prohibit driving after drinking alcohol or drug usage
Make it clear that it’s illegal and dangerous to drive after drinking alcohol or using any other drug. Even more important, let your child know that he or she can call at ANYTIME to get picked up should alcohol or drugs be consumed. Any discussion on the matter will occur the next day. The point is to keep your kid from getting behind the wheel and hurting himself or someone else. As much as we like to think “my kid is an angel and wouldn’t do that”, it’s best to leave that door open in case there’s a temptation. That’s part of growing up- pushing boundaries and experimentation.
Consider a monitoring device
Various types of in-vehicle devices are available to parents who want to monitor their teens’ driving. These systems flag risky behavior such as speeding, sudden braking, abrupt acceleration and nonuse of belts. Research shows a monitoring device can reduce teens’ risks behind the wheel. Some insurers offer discounts for using one.
Choose vehicles with safety in mind
Teens should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of crashing in the first place and then protect them from injury in case they do crash. Bigger, heavier vehicles are safer. Small and mini cars don’t offer the best protection in a collision compared with larger vehicles. Avoid high-horsepower models that might encourage teens to speed. Look for vehicles that have the best safety ratings. Two musts are side airbags to protect people’s heads in crashes (standard on most 2008 and later models) and electronic stability control to avoid crashes (standard on 2012 and later models). Check out the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ratings for vehicles that are good choices for teenager drivers.
Be a Role Model
Wear your seat belt. Put down your cell phone while driving. Drive for the weather conditions. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t drive recklessly, speed unnecessarily or engage in otherwise risky behavior.
New drivers learn a lot by example, so practice safe driving yourself. Teenagers who have crashes and violations often have parents with similar driving records.
Institute a teen driver contract
In searching the web, I found an example and include the link here as reference.
Center for Disease Control- Motor Vehicle Safety Driving Contract
The idea is simple- to hold your teen driver accountable every time they get behind the wheel. Some of the contracts even hold the parents accountable, which I think makes sense. These contracts are very specific about the rules of driving, what penalties are enforced if the rules are broken and how much the teen is going to contribute to vehicle-related expenses. I think if you make a teen have some “skin in the game”, they will take the responsibility of driving more seriously.