It’s natural to be scared when your child reaches legal driving age. Not only will you stay up at night worrying about their safety, but you’ll also probably worry about the process of teaching them and how they’ll behave once they’re out on their own.
Per mile driven, teenage drivers age 16 to 19 are four times more likely to crash than older drivers. According to the CDC, the teens at the highest risk of crashing are male, have teenage passengers with them and have had their license for less than a year.
Here are some tips for helping your teens learn to drive responsibly:
- Model safe driving behaviors. Talking on the phone, eating, texting, putting on makeup, cranking up the radio, tailgating, drinking and driving, and speeding are definitely not driving habits you want your teen to pick up. So don’t do these things in front of them, or alone for that matter.
- Have a heart to heart. Teens can be tough to reach when it comes to important conversations, but it’s critical to talk to them about the dangers and statistics pertaining to teen drivers. Do some research in advance. Talk to them about the dangers of texting, drinking, being distracted and other dangerous behaviors. Involve them in the process of setting rules and expectations about their driving behavior.
- Restrict drive times and situations. Just because they have their license doesn’t mean you need to give them full freedom to drive wherever, whenever, and with whomever they like. Give them a shorter leash at first and explain why. Let them know that as they gain experience (and your trust) behind the wheel, you will gradually give them more freedom behind the wheel.
- Set rules in advance. Don’t wait until your child is 16 and begging for the keys to set rules and expectations about when, where, and with whom they will be driving. That way when you say, “You can only drive the car to SAT prep class and back,” there won’t be as much of a drama and sulking.
- Start them young. Though they’re way too young to get behind the wheel, young children pick up lessons like sponges. By the time they’re 16, putting on their seatbelts when they get in the car should be automatic.
- Reserve the right to say no. Driving is a privilege and a very serious responsibility. If you feel your child is not mature or responsible enough to safely learn to drive, do not let them get their learner’s permit until they start proving that they are ready. (And if your child is getting to be driving age but is still fearful or shows no interest, don’t push it. A child will be ready when he or she is ready.)
- Teaching them yourself? Teach how you’d want to be taught. Before your start, explain the plan for the outing and what they’ll be learning. Start slow and be patient. Give very clear instructions, and offer reminders instead of blame whenever they mess up.
Have any tips to share that worked for your family? Please share them in the comments! SUSAN HAIR 561-309-7078