Having a teen driver can be a stressful and exciting time for the entire family. Although your instinct is to keep your teenagers safe, driving puts them and others on the road at risk. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shares that about 2,400 teens between the ages of 13 and 19 died in a car accident while about 258,000 teens were injured in 2019.
The CDC notes that teens between the ages of 16 and 19 have the highest risk of car accidents compared to other age groups. The reasons include lack of experience and a tendency to engage in riskier driving behavior, such as not wearing seatbelts or drinking.
The types of injuries that teens have after an accident can vary, and may include broken bones, traumatic brain injury (TBI), back problems and whiplash. Sometimes internal injuries occur that are difficult to detect but may cause serious problems like internal bleeding. If you want to keep your teen safe, consider the following tips.
1. Discuss Driving Safety With Your Teen
First, you should discuss the dangers of speeding, distracted driving, driving under the influence, seatbelt safety and other aspects of driving. You want to come to an agreement with your teen about how they will use the car, such as no night driving, checking the oil and tires, or limiting the number of passengers. Having clear consequences for any traffic violations is also important.
Your son or daughter should be aware that car insurance is usually much higher for them than other age groups because of the higher rate of car accidents among teens. The average six-month premium is $2,286 for drivers 16 to 19 years old compared to $943 for drivers 20 to 29 years old. If a teen is an accident, the car insurance rate will go even higher.
2. Set a Good Example
As a parent, you need to set a good example behind the wheel. This means avoid speeding on the road, weaving in and out of traffic or running red lights. You should not text and drive because it contributes to distracted driving.
Although driving can make anyone angry, it is important to avoid road rage. Remember your teen is always watching and learning from you. They may model the worst behaviors they see from you.
3. Have Them Complete a Defensive Driving Course
In addition to the standard drivers education course, have your teen complete a defensive driving class that can equip them with advanced skills. Basic drivers education courses are a good starting point, but extra class and road experience is always helpful.
Defensive driving courses teach how to avoid accidents and how to stay safe on the road. You want to do everything you can to give a teenager a way to anticipate and avoid dangerous situations on the road.
4. Restrict the Number of Passengers
Studies show that having passengers can increase the chance of a teen being in a car accident. Multiple passengers in the vehicle triple the chance of a teenager doing risky behaviors. The reason is teens may want to impress their peers or feel pressure from them to misbehave.
You want to set strict rules on the number of passengers that can be in the car with your teen. Some parents choose to limit this number to zero until the teen is older, and some states have laws that do the same thing.
5. Install a Teen Tracking Device
Teen tracking devices can be installed in a vehicle to track where your teens go and their driving behavior. A GPS tracking device is easy to install and can send reports to your phone or computer. You can receive alerts when they are speeding, driving aggressively or have been in a crash. Some devices will even track car health and notify you when it is time for an oil change or if a recall has happened.
Another option is to install a tracking device on their phone. This will track their movements and surroundings. These devices may feel like an invasion of privacy, so you have to decide if they are necessary and worth using.
6. Encourage Communication
Encourage your teens to call you if they are not able to drive or something happens to the car. If your teens feel ill, have been drinking or have taken medications that are affecting their ability to drive, have them agree to always call you or a friend’s parent, taxi, Uber or Lyft. They should not feel scared to contact you for your help.
Your teen should feel safe communicating with you and sharing problems. To raise safe drivers means being able to talk to them about difficult subjects, such as staying safe on the road.