Early milestones during our child’s younger such as the first steps and first birthday are just as exciting as those that come during the teen years. Events like high school, a first homecoming or prom, and taking driver’s education as a precursor to getting a driver’s license are exciting for kids when they hit double digits. But as a mom of a new teen driver, I also know these rites of passage can be terrifying for parents.
A couple weeks ago my oldest got her learner’s permit. After two weeks of driver’s ed over the summer, she passed her test for her permit and now has to complete 60 hours of behind the wheel training as she looks towards getting her license after her 16th birthday.
I’ve taken the milestones that have come as my kids have gotten older in stride but the preparation for my daughter getting her license is a huge responsibility. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), car crashes are still the leading cause of teen deaths.
As we get ready to hand our teens car keys, we can’t let them continue believing they know everything. They might be overly confident and think they’re invincible, but they aren’t.
8 Ways to Help Your New Teen Driver Stay Safe on the Road
As parents, it’s our job to raise safe and capable drivers. Modeling good driving habits and setting a good example every time we start up the car isn’t enough to keep new teen drivers safe. Having ongoing conversations, using your vehicle’s in-car technology, and knowing other safe driving resources are just as important.
In honor of this week being National Teen Driver Safety Week, here are 8 positive ways you can prepare your new teen driver to be safe behind the wheel as they take another step towards independence.
Know Your Power as a Parent
Even though it may seem like your teen isn’t listening to you, they are. They’re also watching your every move. Since parents have a huge influence on their teen’s driving behaviors, it’s important to have conversations early and often about responsible behavior behind the wheel.
The statistics in the above infographic from Responsibility.org is designed to share statistics in order to foster conversations and present facts so they don’t make critical mistakes as a new teen driver.
Have Them Agree to the 5 Rules to Drive Before They Get Behind the Wheel
As parents, we’ve been protecting our kids their entire lives so why would we just hand them the keys to a 2 ton car with no rules? Make sure your teen agrees to these 5 rules to drive:
- No cell phones
- No extra passengers
- No speeding
- No alcohol
- Buckle up
Continue Talking About Teen Driver Safety Topics
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about parenting, it’s the importance of talking early and often about important topics. The conversation may change with age and experience but with a new teen driver, there’s no time like the present to talk about being responsible behind the wheel.
Being responsible means not being distracted when driving and that underage drinking is illegal.
It’s important to keep talking about these two topics now but just as important to continue the conversation with your new teen driver next week, next month, and as they continue practicing as well as when they get their new license and beyond.
Distracted driving can take on many forms beyond texting and talking on the cell phone. They include taking your eyes off the road, taking your hands off the wheel, and taking your mind off driving.
Many teens may try to use their driving time to eat their morning breakfast or drink coffee, to apply makeup, or to change the radio station. Many teens are distracted by the addition of passengers in the vehicle. Any distraction is a dangerous distraction. Taking eyes off the road even for five seconds could cost a life.
Have a teen who loves to create videos? TeenDrive365’s annual video challenge to provide solutions to distracted driving is now live! This challenge is designed to help save lives by spreading the word about safe driving through teen generated videos. The top three videos will win cash prizes and the first place winner will be awarded $15,000!
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States but according to Responsibility.org’s IKnowEverything campaign, in the past 30 days, 20% of high school students say that they have ridden in a car with a driver who had been drinking. Even though underage drinking has declined, underage drinking and driving continues to be a factor in alcohol-related traffic fatalities among people under 21.
Kids need to hear reportedly that underage drinking is illegal. And that underage drinking and drunk driving are both illegal and dangerous.
Parents of teen drivers must have ongoing conversations with teens about how to stay safe. It’s also critical to for your family to have a plan in case someone your teen is with has been drinking and is about to get behind the wheel. Make sure they know they can always call you and you’ll pick them up, no questions asked.
Create a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement
Just as you created a contract when you gave your child their first cell phone and had conversations about expected digital behavior, a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement helps to make sure everyone is on the same page about your family’s rules of the road.
This free downloadable Mutual Driving Agreement (developed in partnership with Toyota and Discovery Education) serves as a great conversation starter that puts rules in writing. It clearly sets expectations and limits while also outlining hazards to avoid and consequences for breaking rules.
If your teen breaks a rule you’ve set, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) NHTSA says to consider suspending your teen’s driving privileges, limiting the hours they can drive, or limiting the places where they can drive. You could also consider limiting a teen’s access to their cell phone—a punishment that in today’s world could be seen by teens as a serious consequence.
Keep your agreement in a place where you and your teen can see it so it can serve as a reminder. Also be sure to revisit and update it as your teen gains experience and more driving privileges.
Have Them Practice Virtually
Chances are your teen is excited but anxious to get behind the wheel but there are many free interactive lessons on TeenDrive365 that reinforce driver safety as they wait for their next in-car lesson with you. Here’s a look at three of the interactive lessons that are helpful to new teen drivers.
- Heads Up Driving Challenge requires teens to stay calm behind the wheel when distractions are everywhere. Through this challenge, teens will encounter a variety of distracted driving dilemmas like cell phones, food, and their friends just like they will in real life.
- The Real Cost of Driving is an interactive calculator that helps teens understand the real cost of driving. Through this exercising, teens think about their dream car and fill in fiels such as cost of their dream car, what they can contribute towards a down payment, the interest rate, and the length of the loan to determine a monthly payment. Then they have to consider upkeep and insurance costs! Chances are teens will realize that driving is a bigger financial obligation than they ever realized!
- Parents vs Teens Safety tests your knowledge against your teen’s to see who knows more about safe driving habits through a fun interactive fact filled quiz.
Know about the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) System
A new teen driver isn’t aren’t ready to have the same level of driving responsibility as adults. According to NHSTA, they have a higher rate of fatal crashes, because of their immaturity, lack of skills, and lack of experience.
To help your teen stay safe behind the wheel, all 50 States and the District of Columbia have a three-stage graduated driver licensing (GDL) system that limits high-risk driving situations for new drivers. GDL laws are designed to reduce your teen’s crash risk by as much as 50 percent. Familiarize yourself with your State’s GDL laws. The restrictions placed on your teen’s license can better assist you in enforcing those laws.
It’s also important to note that GDL laws and restrictions can vary from State to State. Here in the Washington, DC area where it’s easy to cross state lines and into the District of Columbia, each neighboring state has different rules for teen drivers with permits. Being knowledgeable about the rules in your state and surrounding ones can keep your teen safe
Use Your Vehicle’s Safety Technology
Technology is constantly improving beyond the size of our smartphones. These days in-car safety technology such as Toyota Safety Sense and Chevrolet’s Teen Driver Technology gives parents hands-on teaching tools to educate and advice new drivers on safe driving behaviors.
Toyota Safety Sense is a bundle of active safety features that comes standard on many new Toyotas. Here’s a look at some of the active safety features that are helpful to new teen drivers:
- Pre-collision system with Pedestrian Detection uses the car’s integrated camera and radar system to reduce the likelihood of colliding with a car or pedestrian.
- Lane Departure Alert- A camera on your windshield alerts you when it sense you’ve veered out of your lane to help avoid the consequences of unintended lane departure.
- Lane Tracing Assist- This feature uses the lines on the road and vehicles in front of you to keep your car centered and in its lane
- Road Sign Assist- Since teens are likely to speed, Road Sign Assist helps by detecting speed limit signs with a forward facing camera
Chevrolet’s Teen Driver Technology comes in most Chevrolet models. This in-car technology allows parents to set parameters such as audio volume and speed and also tracks your teen’s driving with an industry-first in-vehicle report card.
Teen Driver Technology also reinforces the importance of buckling up through the Buckle to Drive feature that restricts the use of the radio if front-seat occupants aren’t wearing their seatbelts. The Teen Driver menu can be found through the Chevrolet MyLink display in most Chevrolet models.
If you don’t own a Chevrolet with Teen Driver Technology, Pioneer Electronics recently unveiled rDrive, a connected services solution that allows parents to monitor their teen’s driving habits. I haven’t had a chance to try rDrive yet but delivers crash notifications and speed detections to a parent’s smartphone via the rDrive mobile app. It also provides vehicle diagnostics for any maintenance lights and LoJack safety and security for safety and threat detection services.
Have Them Notify You Upon Arrival
Since we should never be left wondering where our child is and if they arrived safely, make your teen agree to text or call you when they get to their destination. By establish this expectation with your teen from the start, you’re teaching an important lesson in responsibility and safety from the start.
There are also various tools you can use to keep an eye on your teen’s location.
- Life360- Since our kids got smartphones, we’ve been using Life360. I started using the free version but soon switched to the paid version ($49.99/year for unlimited devices) for more features. I love that Life360 provides real time location sharing that gives me a glimpse of each family member’s recent and real time whereabouts. Life360 can also send a push notification, notifying me someone comes and goes from our most frequented places and alerts me if someone’s phone battery is running low. Life360 also features Crash Detection where their advanced sensor detect collisions over 25 mph the moment they happen. This triggers a call by their to the driver or passenger, summoning of emergency assistance if there’s no response, and notifying those in your Circle as well as your emergency contacts.
- OnStar– As much as we can prepare for an emergency, we never know when one might happen to us or someone else on the road. This winter we witnessed a truck in front of us skid off the road and flip over on its side. I happened to be driving a Chevrolet Equinox home from a weekend of skiing that was equipped with OnStar. While my husband and teens checked on the driver and passenger, I pressed the OnStar button to summon emergency assistance. The OnStar representative who answered asked me questions to relay to emergency responders who they dispatched to the accident. Fortunately, everyone was ok but I appreciated having OnStar in our vehicle to get help quickly.
In order to raise safe and capable drivers, we need to instill good driving habits and safe behaviors by setting a good example every time we start up the car. It’s also important to have tough conversations that reassure our kids that we love them and want to keep them safe when they’re behind the wheel.
I work with Responsibility.org as an education consultant and paid member of their Education Advisory Board and education consultant. I was a guest of Toyota for New York Wine and Food Festival last week and Chevrolet provided tips for this piece. Images courtesy of companies mentioned in this post. All opinions in this post are my own and no additional compensation was received.