Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. In fact, one in four crash fatalities in the U.S. involve a teen driver. Until a young driver reaches age 25, their fatal crash risk remains three times higher than other drivers.
Due to both age and inexperience, there is no such thing as a safe teen driver. Studies show that the human brain isn’t fully developed until a person is between 22 and 25 years old. Further, the part of the brain that allows a person to exercise sound judgment and restraint, really important to driving, develops last. For these reasons, there is always going to be greater risks for teen drivers.
To help mitigate the risk, parents must make safe driving a household priority. Safe driving becomes a household priority when parents are consistent about reminding their children how important it is to drive alert, buckled, cautious, and defensive. While each household works differently, below are some other suggestions on how they have to keep safe driving at the top of the family’s priority list.
Teen Driving Agreement
I feel strongly that parents should have rules that pertain to driving and the use of a family car. In addition to enforcing the rules set forth in the Missouri Graduated Drivers License law, parents should consider a written agreement with their child that is structured to outline the teen driver’s driving privileges and responsibilities. I recommend that the agreement reinforce the rule that the teen driver will exercise the highest degree of care by always driving alert, buckled, cautious, and defensive. Here is a sample teen driving agreement.
A teen driver agreement says that you, as the parent, are serious about safe driving. It can also work to keep the lines of communication open with your teenager about the use of the car. If safe driving is truly going to be a household priority then, you as the parent, need to know when your child is using the car, where they are going, the route they will take, the timeline, and more.
I need to say three more things when it comes to putting safe driving at the top of the list. First, we as parents should never choose convenience over safety. However, because we live busy lives, parents are prone to putting our convenience above the potential risks of driving. For instance, when the weather turns bad, it often is inconvenient for parents to drop everything to either pick up their teens or make alternative arrangements.
In making safe driving a household priority, as parents we hold ourselves out as examples, even when it changes or interferes with our plans.
Second, when it comes to the use of family care, always be cognizant of the difference between “recreational” and “purposeful” driving. Studies show that a teen driver’s risk is much greater when they are driving to meet up with friends or other recreational type trips.
Third, as you make driving safety a household priority, never lose sight of the biggest threats to teen driver safety, including the following:
- Impaired driving (alcohol and drugs)
- Distracted driving
- Speeding, racing, and recklessness
- Night driving
- Poor road conditions
You should also remember that there is also the risk posed by other drivers that did not exist when you were learning to drive. There is a rising number of drivers who are driving more impatiently, more distracted, and more aggressively. You no longer can trust other drivers to follow the rules of the road.
As the parent of a teenager, your job is to protect your child. Making safe driving a household priority is just one of many things you can do to help protect your teen as they start on this new journey.
Learn more about teen driver safety with the other blogs in this series: