As a parent, you can make a difference. The single most important step you can take to protect the life of your teen is to be actively involved in the learning-to-drive experience. According to research, teens value the opinions of their parents most of all (even if it doesn’t always seem like it). That’s why sharing your knowledge and experience about safe driving is so important. Now is the time to begin a potentially life-saving dialogue with your teen.
As the parent, your job is to manage and coach your teen into becoming a safe, experienced driver through practice driving and mentoring. It is important to be aware of the risks, set and enforce rules, and model safe and responsible driving. Parents need to provide a framework for their teens that guide their decision-making and behaviors, even when they are not around. You play a critical role in your teen’s learning-to-drive process. Here are some important actions you can take.
Evaluate your teen’s readiness. Talk with your teen about personal responsibility, the ability to follow rules and any other concerns before beginning the learning-to-drive process. Before you begin practice driving with your teen, include strict ground rules related to distraction.
Get informed. A lot has changed since you earned your driver’s license. Graduated driver licensing (GDL), driver education, license restrictions and supervised practice driving are all part of today’s licensing process. It is important to learn the rules in your state.
Start talking now. You have acquired “road wisdom” over the years – insight you’ll want to share, because it could save your teen from having to learn things the hard way.
Focus on safety. Traffic crashes are a real danger. Crash risks begin to increase at age 12. Talk to your teen about:
- Always buckling up.
- Being a safe passenger with teen and adult drivers.
- Prohibit your teen from riding with teen drivers or transporting other teens during the learning-to-drive process. Other teen passengers are one of the most dangerous sources of distraction for teen drivers, whether due to loud music, rowdy behavior or peer pressure.
- Do not allow a cell phone to be used by you or your teen, and make an effort to block out other distractions. Include strict rules related to distraction in your Parent-Teen Driving Agreement before your teen drives solo.
Be engaged. When you’re behind the wheel, talk about what you see (road signs, pedestrians, other vehicles, etc.) that could result in the need to change speed, direction or both. Have your teen comment, too. The more time your teen spends behind the wheel, the more experiences you’ll both have to talk about, such as dealing with tailgaters, distractions, speeding, poor weather conditions and more. Emphasize the dangers of these common hazards.
Be active in the learning-to-drive process. The more issues you address early, the safer and smoother the whole process will be. AAA offers StartSmart, a set of research-based e-newsletters you can use to guide discussions with your teen throughout the entire learning-to-drive process.
Stay involved. Continue to practice supervised driving until your teen logs at least 100 hours. Your teen might obtain an intermediate driver license before completing 100 hours of practice driving. This does not mean your teen driver no longer needs to practice, though. Solo driving is actually the riskiest phase for your teen, so stay engaged.
Be a good role model. Your teen has been watching your driving habits for the last decade or so. And as your teen begins the learning-to-drive process, that focus will likely increase. So, make changes in your driving to prevent any poor driving habits from being passed on. Show you take driving seriously and always set a good example.
What you can do
- Always wear your seat belt.
- Obey traffic laws.
- Do not use a cell phone while driving.
- Watch your speed.
- Don’t tailgate.
- Use your turn signals.
- Don’t drive when angry or tired.
StartSmart…Online Parent Session
It’s no secret that parents play a critical role in the learning-to-drive process, from checking into state licensing processes to supervising practicing driving. With all the details involved in getting your teen safely behind the wheel, it’s a good idea to have a game plan.
AAA has developed an online course for parents of teens who are – or soon will be – learning to drive. The StartSmart Online Parent Session draws on AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research to prepare you to navigate your teen’s learning-to-drive experience. This two-hour webinar explains the licensing process and parents’ role. It demonstrates how to reinforce what your teen is learning in driver education and how to maximize the practice driving that you’ll do with your teen. Teaching essential elements of safe driving in an interactive and innovative way, this online program aims to ensure that safe driving habits are developed and maintained for life.
Visit StartSmart for more information.
Contact your local club to check the availability of AAA Approved Driving Schools in your area.