04 Mar How to Steer Your Teen Towards Being a Safe Driver
Parents of new teen drivers are about to embark on a whole new phase of parenting, and needless to say, it can be a crazy one. Parents spend the majority of their lives doing everything in their power to protect their children, and it doesn’t stop once their child receives their driver’s license.
This can be an extremely stressful time for parents. Drive Safer would like to offer you some important tips and tricks on the best parenting styles when it comes to teen driving situations.
Be an Authoritative Parent:
In 2009, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in association with State Farm, conducted a study entitled “Driving Through the Eyes of Teens, a Closer Look.” The study highlighted the connection between parenting styles, and teen driver safety. This study determined the amount of support and control that a parent demonstrated, and four different parenting styles were identified. The Permissive Parent is highly supportive and trusting, but makes few rules for their teen. “I’ll trust you to do the right thing.” The Uninvolved Parent, sets few rules, offers little support and does not monitor their teens driving. “You’ll learn from your mistakes.” The Authoritarian Parent is stern, sets many rules and closely monitors, but fails to support their new teen driver. “You’ll do as I say.”
The final type of parenting style, The Authoritative Parent, proves to be the most successful when it comes to teen drivers. This parent is highly supportive, but creates rules and closely monitors their teen’s driving. “I care, and I’ll give you the freedoms you earn but for safety-related issues, you’ll do as I say.” According to the CHOP study, teens who say their parents set rules about driving and monitor with whom and where they are going in a helpful and supportive way, are 71% less likely to drive under the influence, 50% less likely to be involved in a crash, and 30% are less likely to use a cell phone while driving.
Set The Safe Example:
It might surprise you that our children learn to drive well before they reach their teenage years. From the first time you turn your baby’s rear facing car seat around, to the first time you hand the keys to your new driver, they have been observing and picking up on your driving habits, both bad and good. As a parent, it is your job to set the safe example for your new driver. This includes doing things like obeying the speed limit, always wearing your seat belt, always driving sober, and not doing distracting things such as texting or eating while driving.
Remember, Practice Makes Perfect:
In New Jersey, teens make up approximately 6% of the driving population, but are responsible for 17% of all car crashes. This is due to the lack of experience that new drivers have behind the wheel. The only way to ensure that a new driver has enough experience to handle driving in dangerous situations we encounter every single day, is to expose them to these situations. That means letting your new driver drive (with you coaching him/her) during the day, night, light rain, heavy rain, snow, ice, fog, highways, local roads, parking lots, city roads, country roads, single lane roads, multi-lane roads, parking up a hill, parking down a hill, parallel parking, getting on highways, getting off highways, etc. Drive Safer recommends that you spend a minimum of 50 hours behind the wheel with your new driver before they test for their license. It takes hundreds of hours of practice to excel at anything, and driving is no different.
Control the Keys and Ask Questions:
Having a driver’s license shouldn’t necessarily entitle them to direct access to a vehicle. Whether your teen has their own car or plans to share yours, you should control the keys, and be sure that they must ask for your permission BEFORE they can take the car. When your teen comes to you and asks to use the car, there is an inevitable conversation that happens each and every time – and this is the magic formula for success. Before handing over the keys, you will instinctively ask these three questions: Where are you going? Who are you going with? When will you be back?
Each of these questions serves a great purpose and uncovers more information about what exactly your teen will be doing with your car. These questions help you, the parent, hold your teen accountable to the Graduated Drivers Licensing (GDL) Laws and by simply doing this, you reduce the risk to your teen driver by about 40%. Once you know where they are going and whom they are going with, you will be able to know if you are OK with giving them the keys, and they will know that you intend to hold them accountable. If your teen’s answers make you feel uncomfortable, this is the opportunity to ask more questions.
Be Sure You Are Both on the Same Page:
It is important that you and your teen are on the same page about what the rules and expectations are, and frankly, what the consequences will be if these rules are broken. Parents, it is up to you to ensure that the punishment fits the crime, and that you do enforce it – each and every time.
It is important to have this conversation, and there are some very good Parent/Teen Driving Agreements out there. The CDC has a good contract that you can download here. These types of documents help you know what things to focus on, help you set the consequences, and ensure that you and your teen are on the same page.
Being the parent of a new teen driver can be a stressful, yet rewarding experience. Keeping an open line of communication between you and your teen and being an active participant in their journey will help your new driver become a safe driver. If you would like a copy of our free e-book, “Everything the Parent of a New Teen Driver Needs to Know, but Didn’t Know Who or What to Ask”, please email us at [email protected].
Drive Safer offers a behind the wheel defensive driving course and two other defensive driving course options that meets the criteria to deduct points from your license AND get you an insurance reduction.