As a parent, handing over the keys to your vehicle to your teen is stressful. You are rightfully concerned that your teen could be injured or killed in a car accident. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that teen drivers are more than three times more likely to be injured in a car accident than are more experienced motorists. At the same time, parents are not helpless bystanders. There are things that you can do to ensure that your teenager is a safe and responsible driver. In this article, you will learn four actions for parents of young drivers.
While there are a number of different reasons why teen drivers are at a higher risk of being involved in a collision, federal highway safety officials are clear: the primary risk factor is inexperience. New drivers (or all ages) are significantly more likely to be involved in crashes than are more experienced motorists. Teens learning how to drive need practice. As a parent, you can make your teen a more skilled driver by practicing with them under safe conditions. You do not have to start them on a busy highway. They should practice driving in a place consistent with their current skill level.
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has an active campaign going to try to reduce teen driving accidents. Notably, the federal agency stresses the importance of parents in this project. As they explained, “parents can be the biggest influencers on teens’ choices behind the wheel.” When you model good driving habits, your teen is going to notice—even if it seems like they are not paying attention.
As of 2021, all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have some form of graduated licensing program in place. Under these types of systems, a teen does not simply get a full, unrestricted license after passing their written exam and road skills test. Quite the contrary, teens start with a restricted license that limits the types of passengers they can have and the hours they can be on the road. Of course, these are merely the minimum mandatory requirements. Parents have every right to put their own additional rules in place. For example, you can impose a household rule that prevents your teen from driving somewhere without your express permission.
Finally, parents should always be ready to take immediate action to address any unsafe behavior behind the wheel. If you catch your teenage driver speeding, you should take action. If you catch your teen driving texting while driving, you should take action. If you find that your teen was driving while intoxicated, you need to take the keys right away. Risky driving behaviors are the leading cause of serious car accidents. Parents need to put real consequences in effect to ensure that their young driver is following the rules.