If you’re reading this, chances are you have a teen that is a new driver. It’s a scary subject for all parents. You trust your kids and you want to trust the safety of your neighborhood’s streets and your city’s highways, but you need to stay realistic – accidents happen. However, you can empower your teen with your own knowledge and wisdom as a life-long driver to keep him or her out of harm’s way.
This may seem like a relatively new phenomenon, yet distracted drivers have existed for years. Before mobile phones, morning commuters could be spotted in traffic applying makeup, shaving, eating food, reading newspapers, and performing other absurd tasks from behind the steering wheel. Today’s distractions are more likely to include phone calls and texting. Demonstrate the power of a driver’s attention to your teen while you’re out driving, preferably in a safe setting like an empty parking lot.
Put Away the Smartphones
Today, smartphones are a ubiquitous part of our culture. They are your teen’s primary point of contact for friends and family. Unfortunately, smartphones are detrimental while driving as they create major distractions. Not only have most states passed laws prohibiting the handling of phones while driving, conversations are enough to take a driver’s attention off the road and the surrounding environment. Hands-free Bluetooth systems that connect to your car’s stereo system are wonderful for taking urgent calls when on the road, but explain to your teen that he or she should only accept important, urgent calls and to keep them short.
Part of the excitement in earning a license is driving friends places like the movies, restaurants, and concerts. However, newly licensed teens are inexperienced and at a high risk of accident during their first few years or driving, and even more so when friends are in the car. Explain to your teen why keeping passengers to a minimum is necessary for everyone’s safety. Also, review your state’s motor vehicle laws as some states prohibit new drivers from carrying non-family passengers for their first year on the road.
Don’t Drive Under the Influence
As an experienced driver, you already know that driving under the influence is a bad idea. This extends beyond the obvious examples like underage drinking. Prescription medications can affect perception and judgment, which makes operating a car even more difficult for a teen. If your child is taking a prescription drug, make sure you know the side effects and best times of the day to take the medication to have the least impact on driving, and talk to your teen’s doctor about any concerns.
Remember, your teen has much to learn behind the wheel that will only come from hands-on experience. The best things you can do as a parent is encourage good driving behavior, teach by example, and answer all questions about driving. Go for rides with your teen and talk him or her through the various experiences on the road, such as adjusting to traffic patterns, lane switching in congested areas, and dealing with hostile drivers. You are your child’s greatest teacher.