It’s an exciting time in teens’ lives when they first begin driving, but it’s also an extraordinarily dangerous time. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for kids and young adults ages 14 through 18.
Despite this, the NHTSA says just 25 percent of parents have a serious talk with their kids about the key components of safe driving. So, with National Teen Driver Safety Week coming up October 19-25, here are five recommended rules to spell out before your teen gets behind the wheel:
- Absolutely no alcohol.
There is no legal limit for alcohol when it comes to teen drivers. Having any amount of alcohol in their system is illegal for all those under 21, everywhere. On average, according to the NHTSA, 25 percent of deaths in motor vehicle crashes involve a teen driver with a blood-alcohol content of .01 or higher.
- Seat belts required.
Drivers and passengers ages 16 to 24 historically use seat belts less often than other groups. Let teens know that seat belt use is non-negotiable. It’s the easiest way to protect themselves in a crash. And, set a good example by buckling up yourself.
- Never speed.
Teenagers may like to push the limits, but the road isn’t the place to do so. Speeding doesn’t simply put them at risk for a ticket. It increases the risk of a deadly accident as well.
- No calls, no texts.
It’s never a good idea for anyone to call or text while driving, but, because teens lack experience behind the wheel, distracted driving is all the more risky. Reaction times are slower when someone is distracted. Even worse, sending or reading a text means a driver’s eyes aren’t on the road.
- Only one passenger (or zero, depending on your state’s licensing guidelines for young drivers).
As the number of passengers rises, so does the risk of a fatal crash, the NHTSA says. Think back to when you were a teen driver — how different were your actions when you had friends in the car versus when you were alone?
Let young drivers know that driving is a privilege and that you’ll take away the keys if they don’t drive safely. Having regular conversations about safety, practicing driving together, and leading by example go a long way in ensuring your teen makes smart decisions when they get behind the wheel.
But there’s another simple step you can take to get on the same page about your family’s rules of the road. Create a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that puts your rules in writing to clearly set expectations and limits. Work with your teen to outline hazards to avoid and consequences for breaking rules.
Keep it on the fridge and update it as your teen gains experience and more driving privileges.
Link to Parent / Teen Driving Agreement http://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/pdf/patk_2014_teenparent_agreement_aap-a.pdf
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