A parent’s worry increases tenfold the moment a child finds his or her way into the driver’s seat of the family vehicle. The risk of experiencing an accident is a very real one, with consequences ranging from financial annoyances all the way to serious and even fatal injuries. This risk increases significantly when a teen drives dangerously or irresponsibly.
How can parents help ensure that their child drives safely and defensively? Consider the following tips:
Be a Good Role Model
Driving responsibly is not just a matter of skill but also a matter of attitude, so make sure that from an early age, your child sees that you take road safety very seriously. Show that there is nothing that can make you deviate from a safe driving plan — even if you are already late going to a very important event. Your child should never see you engage in risky road behaviors like speeding, racing other cars, rolling through stop signs or running lights. Although your good model of mature and safe driving practices will not guarantee that your kids will do likewise, your poor model of irresponsible driving sends a clear message that road rules are for others to follow and your family is somehow exempt. This gives kids permission to take chances that could lead to disaster.
Driving is Not a Right But a Responsibility
Teens may have the idea that just because they are of age to obtain a license, they are already eligible to drive. However, you can show them that they have to earn your trust first, before they will be given the privilege of driving. For instance, you may want your child to show consistency in arriving home by curfew. You may want to see that he can give you contact information when he is out and about or that he is reliable about calling when he arrives at distant or unknown locations. You may want him to answer his cell phone when you call. These sorts of practices are more important when your child is a driver. Some parents want their driving child to be able to pay for gas, insurance or car usage as well. They want their child to have a job before they get behind the (expensive) wheel. It’s up to you to determine criteria that show trustworthiness and responsibility. However, if your child shows neither, you can expect various car-related challenges to occur on a regular basis.
Educate Your Child About the Dangers of Irresponsible Driving
Perhaps your child underestimates the dangers of driving without a seatbelt, driving while texting, racing on public roads, driving after consuming alcohol or drugs or cutting lanes. After all, if they have so far managed to get away scot-free with these behaviors, they may have an inflated sense of control over the situation. Show them examples of other teenagers who have met the negative consequences of driving irresponsibility. You may even organize a visit to the local traffic control center. Education is always the best way to protect one’s self from avoidable hazards. For instance, did you know that drivers age 15-20 years old accounted for 12% of drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2008? A picture is worth a thousand words; you can do some car crash research on the internet and insist that your child look at it with you.
Get Your Child a Safe Car
If you have worries over your child’s driving behavior, it’s best to ask them to stop driving until the have better skills or attitude. You can request that they take further driving lessons – the kind that addresses advanced skills and defensive driving. If your child gets speeding tickets, make sure that HE pays for them himself. If he gets into accidents, make sure that HE pays for costs involved (or contributes according to his means). When the cost or danger is repeated on several occasions, take away your child’s driving privileges for a period of time. Let him know he can try again in a few months. If, when he has the car again, the driving is equally poor, take away driving privileges for longer – he can try again in 6 months or a year (or when he’s completed his “safe driving” course upgrade). In addition, consider making sure that the vehicle the child drives rates high on safety features. A car that is easy to maneuver, and whose safety features are displayed prominently on the dashboard of the vehicle is recommended.