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Teen Driving: Considerations for Parents

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Is your teenager thinking about getting a driver's permit or license? As a parent, you reserve the right to determine whether or not your son or daughter may drive. So, be sure to guide your teenager through this rite of passage by teaching him or her how to be safe on the road.

Inexperienced, first-time drivers create significant potential hazards. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010) cites car crashes as the number one killer of teenagers in America. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2010), nearly 5,000 teens are involved in fatal car accidents every year, and another 375,000 are injured. The good news is that there are a number of common-sense measures that parents and teen drivers can take to help prevent accidents.

  • When talking with your child, try to instill the sense of responsibility that goes hand-in-hand with getting behind the wheel. Set clear boundaries as part of an agreement to let your teenager use your vehicle.
  • Distractions are a primary cause of accidents for teenage drivers. Consider setting limits on the number of passengers allowed in the car. In addition, strictly forbid talking or texting on a cell phone while driving. Many states have laws banning cell phone use while driving.
  • Although you may allow your teen driver to listen to music while driving, discourage him or her from having the volume up so high that the sounds of the road cannot be heard. If you think your teenager will have trouble following this rule, you may want to have your mechanic disconnect the radio/CD player.
  • Emphasize the importance of wearing seat belts at all times when in the vehicle. Seat belts have been shown to save lives, and at the very least, they can help prevent a minor accident from becoming a major one.
  • You may also consider limiting the amount of time your teen is allowed to drive, especially during busy times, such as rush hour, or in congested locations, such as city streets and busy highways. In addition, some states have laws restricting late-night driving during the initial months of licensure.
  • Establish a zero-tolerance rule when it comes to reckless behavior, such as driving while under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Caution your teenager that driving isn't a right; it's a privilege that must be earned and maintained by a clean driving record.

Simple rules, simple ideas, and common-sense actions—these are measures that can, if enforced and observed regularly, help guide your teenager through the difficult times of learning to drive. You may also choose to enroll your child in a driver's education course through his or her school or the local community college. Such education, when backed up by parental support, can provide the foundation for years of safe driving to come.

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