The third week of October has been designated as National Teen Driver Safety Week, for the sixth year. This year’s theme is “Share, Not Scare!” Stressing the importance of driving safely, schools and other organizations will be teaching teenagers that car crashes are the #1 killer of teens. 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, not texting and talking on the phone, and focusing on the road.
Several states offer Graduated Drivers Licensing, which is a three-step plan:
- 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.
Check to see if your state has this program.
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 driving time as possible – thirty to sixty practice hours over a six-month period is recommended.
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.
Here are some added suggestions from TeenDriverSource on how to communicate with your teen drivers:
- Focus on the positive. Talk about positive behaviors like always wearing a seat belt and being a good passenger instead of focusing on what teens should not be doing.
- Engage rather than offend. Get your friends involved in creating a NTDSW campaign at your school that promotes the benefits of safe behaviors. Positively structured learning experiences have a much greater chance of motivating people to choose safe, smart behaviors. For campaign ideas, visit ridelikeafriend.org.
- Empower rather than scare. Teens want to do the right thing and be a part of the solution. Reaffirm their positive instincts by celebrating safe driving and passenger behaviors. Do not dwell on the few at your school who are rebelling in an unhealthy way. Stay positive. Others will follow your lead.
Learn more about messaging to motivate at mostofus.org. This site offers advice about positive health-related communication. It also discusses how to build positive campaigns, ones proven to influence teens to avoid substance abuse, violence, car crashes, and other health risks.
Let’s think about turning National Teen Drivers Safety Week into an every day promotion! We should think about praising our children for being safe drivers as often as we warn them to be careful. Let them know that you appreciate them for paying attention and staying safe! pb