Ground rules and expectations can keep your teen safe on the road.
I remember like it was only yesterday. It was 1996 and I had a freshly printed drivers permit when my mother took me and my baby blue 1986 Mercury Cougar to the school parking lot for a lesson on driving.
I feel like my mom spent hours lecturing me on the importance of 10 & 2 (9 and 3 is the standard now due to airbags) at all times, using my blinker, what an appropriate radio level was, and always wearing my seatbelt. After she was somewhat confident in my parallel parking and braking skills I was ready to cruise Main St. in my one-stop sign town.
I felt like I was the queen of the road and knew it all, even though we never got above 35 miles an hour.
What I didn’t understand or appreciate at the time was my parents focus on safety. If they hadn’t taught me the importance and urgency of driving safely as a teenager, my driving experience would have been vastly different. They ingrained in me that driving is a big responsibility and has grave consequences. Not only did it give me a healthy respect for driving, but is something that I have taken with me every time I get behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Sure, things have changed since 1996, but the fundamentals are still the same and with all the distractions teens face, it’s more important than ever to teach them driving safety tips.
It needs to be a habit that the first thing when getting in a car is to buckle up. Seatbelts save lives and they need to require it for any passenger that rides with them. You can start training your kids from a young age — every time you buckle them into their car seat, point it out. Every time they climb in on their own, ask them about their seat belt. By the time they become teenagers, buckling up will be second nature.
Put the Phone Away
Teens and adults alike need to turn their phones on do-not-disturb while driving. Even better is to keep the phone in your purse or hide it in a console so that they aren’t tempted to text. There are plenty of distractions when driving and we certainly don’t need to add more to the mix! Help your teen agree on the best place to keep her phone so that it’s out of reach.
Speed limit signs are meant to be followed and there is no reason to go over the limit. We all know that speeding causes accident and puts everyone in the car and those around them in danger. Plus, let’s also remember how expensive speeding tickets are! I’m a firm believer in making your teenager pay for those fines so they can truly feel the pain of breaking the law. Even if they don’t understand why the speed limit is what it is, they will understand (or are more likely to comply) when they have to come up with $300 on their own.
We all remember how fun and cool it was to cruise around town with your friends. But did you know that each additional teenage passenger increases your teen’s chance of having a crash by 100%? And with talking, changing of the radio station and focusing on what’s going on in the car instead of the road, how can your teen not be distracted? Before letting your teen have passengers, make sure they are comfortable driving alone and following the rules of the road, that they demonstrate maturity and they are a responsible driver before adding more people to the mix.
Leave the Radio Alone
We all know and understand that teens enjoy music, but we need to stress the importance of keeping their eyes on the road and not finding the perfect playlist. As an adult, you can practice this for your children by limiting the amount of time you spend fiddling with the radio. When your teen gets older, help her set up her favorite driving playlists (and then, of course, stow the phone out of sight!)
Invest in Roadside Assistance
Everyone knows about AAA, but most insurance companies also offer some kind of roadside assistance along with their car insurance plans and many new cars come with roadside assistance as part of the warranty. This is always a great investment for anyone, but especially for a young driver who may not have the experience she needs to handle a problem on her own or who may get too stressed out to think clearly. Make roadside assistance a contact in her phone and keep the number written on a piece of paper in the glove box.
Equip Them With Safety Tools
Help your teen prep her first emergency preparedness safety kit. Include things like a spare tire, jumper cables, tire pressure monitors, spare fluids, a funnel, flares, paper maps, duct tape, a first aid kit, and more. It’s also good to prep for the weather: lots of water and electrolytes for those who live in hot climates and plenty of blankets, jackets, gloves, and shovels for those who experience harsh winters.
As an extra bonus, you can teach your teen how to take care of basic maintenance yourself, or you can both sign up for a class together. Many emergency preparedness classes give you hands-on experience with changing a tire, seeing what happens as a result of low oil pressure, and more. It’s good to know the signs before they become a problem, and you can only solve those problems if you’ve had practice!
Have Them Sign a Contract
This isn’t going to get you any cool parent awards, but it’s an important step. Getting a driver’s license is the first step into the adult world, and if your teen wants to be an adult then they need to act like one. Creating a contract that states the expectations, limits, guidelines of where or when they are allowed to drive, what expensive they are responsible for and what the consequences are for breaking the rules. Go over the contract, have them sign it, and give the teenager a copy for future reference. When they violate the contract, you pull it back out and remind them that they signed the document and they are obligated to the agreement or they suffer the penalty.
Thinking back on how we drove as teens might just make you an even more nervous parent of a teen driver. But preparing our teens can not just keep them safe, but also, keep us calm when they get home *just a bit* after curfew.