Since 2007, the third week of October has been designated as National Teen Driver Safety Week. This week, October 17 through 23, to stress the importance of driving safely, schools and other organizations will be sharing information with teenagers about safe driving. Car crashes are the #1 killer of teens. Teaching teens that along with the privilege of driving a vehicle, there are rules that must be respected and followed.
Research has shown that parents are the single greatest influence on their teen’s driving. Parents must set the example early on, by buckling up every time they get behind the wheel, slowing down, and focusing on the road. You’ve heard the old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” This is certainly true when it comes to teen drivers. Even though parents have busy schedules, the more time they spend letting their teens drive gives them the advantage of experience. They need to drive in different road situations and at various times of the day with adult supervision. Letting your child operate a motor vehicle without supervision is taking a terrible risk. Give them as much supervised driving time as possible – thirty to fifty practice hours over a six-month period is recommended.
Several states offer Graduated Drivers Licensing, which is a three-step plan:
- There is a minimum supervised learner’s period.
- After passing the driver’s test, they receive an intermediate license, which limits the amount of unsupervised driving time.
- Full privileges license after completion of previous stages.
The Centers for Disease Control make the following suggestions to parents:
- Set rules for your teen drivers. Set limits to keep them safe. Be sure they know they must abide by the laws of the state, limit nighttime driving, and wear seat belt.
- Restrict the number of passengers they may have in the car.
- Talk about signing a Parent-Teen Driving Contract (on the CDC website). Discuss how important it is to follow the rules, and the consequences for breaking them. Hang this contract on the refrigerator door as a reminder that you want him/her to stay safe, and that when the rules of safe driving are followed, greater driving privileges will result.
Have you seen the commercial where the dad is leaning into the car, giving his little daughter all the right instructions that she must follow while driving, and then gives her the car keys? In his mind, she is about 6 or 7 years old, but in reality, the next scene reveals she is a teen. This serves as a reminder that in our hearts, although they are teenagers, we still think of them as little ones. We all must emphasize safe driving to the teens in our families – children or grandchildren. One of the most important things to help them stay safe is to tell them to forget about their cell phone and focus on the road. If we can get teens and every other driver to ignore those electronic devices, the highways will be much safer for everyone!
Good luck to parents of new drivers. Let’s all do our part to keep the roads safe for them. Help them to know that not only during Teen Driving Safety Week, but all the time, they need to “handle that car with care.”