Your teen’s first driver’s license. Its an exciting time in a teenager’s life: hitting the open road, wind in their hair, freedom at their fingertips. On the parent’s side of things, however, your child’s first driver’s license can be riddled with anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. All for good reason. According to the CDC, teen drivers aged 15-19 are three times more likely to have a fatal accident than drivers older than 20. The combination of excitement and overconfidence in their abilities create a deadly mix for teens hitting the roads.
The Virginia State DMV outlines state-mandated restrictions to help decrease the chances of teen accidents by specifically targeting the factors that are most likely to increase the chances of a teen getting into an accident. Such restrictions include: limiting the number of teenage passengers to one single person unless a licensed parent is also riding in the vehicle, a curfew between 12:00 am to 4:00 am prohibiting teens from driving, and a restriction on all cellphones including the use of Bluetooth. Although these restrictions were created to target the three most common causes of auto accidents for teenage drivers, they are not the complete answer for how to best protect your newly licensed teen.
You, as the parent, are the single biggest factor determining your child’s safety. The biggest thing you can do to help you teen learn safe driving techniques is to model for your child you how you would want them to drive. You have probably heard it before; monkey see monkey do. When you drive while talking on your cellphone, eating a meal, or yelling at other drivers in front of your child, your teen is learning that these behaviors are acceptable behind the wheel. Although you think they may be acceptable for you, you probably do not like the idea of your teen hopping behind the wheel with a cheeseburger and cellphone in hand. Making a conscious effort to model the behavior you expect from your teen while driving is the single biggest impact you can make on their safety behind the wheel.
Another option you may want to consider, especially for the newest of teen drivers, is a driving contract. This link and this link will take you to two contracts you may want to consider having your teen sign before being allowed behind the wheel without adult supervision. They both outline rules, such as no driving while talking on the phone or a curfew, and suggest you and your teen agree upon the outcome if a rule is broken. They encourage you to choose outcomes that are specific to your child so they will be more likely to follow the rules you agree upon in order for them to have access to the car. Although the odds may still be against your child until they gain more experience behind the wheel, you will likely decrease their chances of ending up in a fatal accident by giving your new driver a strong foundation in what it means to be a responsible driver.
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