Parents Lead | ND Alcohol Education to Prevent Underage Drinking

Parents - You and Your Teen Driver

The number one cause of death among teens is car crashes. As a parent, you are the greatest influence on your child's driving behavior. Talk to your teen today. For tips on visiting with your teen and points of discussion, visit under your influence.

teen driversSometimes parents hesitate to set rules because their son or daughter says that no one else is. There is nothing further from the truth. These are suggested guidelines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Don't rely solely on driver education. High school driver education may be the most convenient way to learn skills, but it doesn't necessarily produce safer drivers. Poor skills aren't always to blame. Teen attitudes and decision-making matter more. Young people naturally tend to rebel. Teens often think they're immune to harm, so they don't use safety belts as much and they deliberately seek thrills like speeding. Training and education do not change these tendencies. Peer influence is great but parents have much more influence than they are typically given credit.

Restrict night driving. Most young drivers' nighttime fatal crashes occur from 9 p.m. to midnight, so teens shouldn't drive much later than 9 p.m. The problem isn't just that such driving requires more skill. Late outings tend to be recreational, and even teens that usually follow the rules can be easily distracted or encouraged to take risks.

Restrict passengers. Teen passengers in a vehicle can distract a beginning driver and/or lead to greater risk-taking. Because young drivers often transport their friends, there's a teen passenger problem as well as a teen driver problem. While night driving with passengers is particularly lethal, many fatal crashes with teen passengers occur during the day. The best policy is to restrict teenage passengers, especially multiple teens, all the time.

Supervise practice driving. Take an active role in helping your teenager learn how to drive. Plan a series of practice sessions in a wide variety of situations, including night driving. Give beginners time to work up to challenges like driving in heavy traffic or on the freeway. Supervised practice should be spread over at least six months and continue even after a teenager graduates from a learner's permit to a restricted or full license.

Remember that you're a role model. New drivers learn a lot by example, so practice safe driving. Teens with crashes and violations often have parents with poor driving records.

Require seat belt use. Don't assume that belt use when you're in the car with your 16-year-old means belts will be used all the time, especially when your child is out with peers. Remember that belt use is lower among teenagers than older people. Insist on belts all the time.

Prohibit drinking. Make it clear that it's illegal and highly dangerous for a teenager to drink alcohol. Even small amounts of alcohol can alter a teen's judgment and driving skills.

Choose vehicles for safety, not image. Teenagers should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of a crash and offer protection in case they do crash. For example, small cars don't offer the best protection in a crash. Avoid cars with performance images that might encourage speeding. Avoid trucks and sport utility vehicles - the smaller ones, especially, are more prone to roll over.


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