by Marta Sánchez, Ph.D.
For many teens across the country, summers usually represent free time. Schools on traditional nine-month calendars are out and youth employment rates skyrocket. This means more teens are on the road, some getting to their jobs while others may be out with friends.
Teen accidents increase after the Memorial Day holiday, and part of the problem is a distracted teen. Texting or other teen passengers can be the cause of that distraction. In addition to this, many minority teens do not get their driver’s license until they are 18 years old. This means they will start driving without the careful guidance and supervision of their parents.
Parents have a clear role to play in keeping their teens safe and making sure that summer stays fun. It starts by raising awareness of the issue and setting clear expectations for your teen on safe driving. It might include putting these expectations into writing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies 8 danger zones and offers the following recommendations:
- Driver inexperience. Counteract inexperience by providing 30-50 hours of supervised driving practice to your newly-licensed teen driver.
- Driving with teen passengers. Insist that your teen follows their state’s Graduated Driver Licensing system and do not allow your teen to have more passengers in the car than your state allows. If your state has no such rule, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest you allow zero to one passenger in the car for the first 6 months after your teen receives his/her driver’s license.
- Nighttime driving. Set a 9 or 10 pm curfew and practice nighttime driving with your teen.
- Not using seatbelts. No brainer! Make it a requirement that your teen wears a seatbelt, both as a driver and a passenger.
- Distracted driving. Don’t allow texting or other cell phone use, eating, and chatting with others while driving. Remind your teen why these rules are important.
- Drowsy driving. Stay aware of your teen’s schedule to ensure he or she gets enough rest to drive safely. High-risk times for driving are early morning and late at night.
- Reckless driving. Remind your teen to follow the speed limit but also to adjust his or her speed for the weather and road conditions, and to keep a safe distance from the car in front to prevent accidents.
- Impaired driving. Set the standard by not drinking and driving yourself and have a Parent-Teen driving agreement in place before giving your teen the keys to the car. The key message is no drinking and driving.
Talking about these precautions with your teens, helping them understand why it’s important to follow these precautions, and holding teens accountable for not following these safety guidelines, can help prevent car accidents and tragedies from happening. Make this a conversation about growing up, being responsible, and gaining an adult privilege.
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Although there are no guarantees, remind your teen how to stay as safe as possible during a police encounter:
Be part of the larger conversation with other teens by encouraging your teen to enter the TeenDrive365Video Challenge; prizes include a $15k cash award and a chance to promote teen safe driving in a creative way. Check the TeenDrive365 Video Challenge website this fall for deadlines for this year’s competition.
Managing Editor | @SBPeditorial