Are You Ready To Have A Teen Driver?

Are You Ready To Have A Teen Driver?

Teen Driving Northeast OhioHaving an open dialogue between parents and teens with clear expectations can make the experience a positive one.

Do you have a teenager in your family? If you do, then teenage driving is an issue you need to face. While this passage into adulthood is typically one that provides increasing freedom, it also comes with many safety concerns.

Parents’ Roles

Geoffrey Putt, PsyD, director of Parenting and Family Support at Akron Children’s Hospital, says, “Parents are the key,” when talking about teen driving. It is important to start a dialogue with your child.

Tami Otteson of Solon says she talks with her teens, “every time [we] hop in the car with them.”

What should you talk about?

The NHTSA (National Highway

Traffic Safety Administration) suggests five rules to follow.

1. No cell phone while driving;

2. No extra passengers;

3. No speeding;

4. No alcohol; and

5. Always buckle up.

These are good talking points. And Putt recommends putting them in writing with driving contracts. These rules may seem obvious, but it helps to talk explicitly about them with your teenager.

Holding teen drivers accountable is important.

Putt says to set “clear expectations with clear consequences.”

“Driving is a privilege, not a right, and you earn it by making good choices,” he says. “If a teen breaks driving rules or otherwise is irresponsible, don’t be afraid to revoke driving privileges.”

Otteson says she has taught her kids that “life is really good when we trust you.”

Driving Distractions

A widely noted concern for teen drivers is texting. According to the NHTSA, “Texting while driving creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.”

However, there are many other sources of distraction for the teenage driver, for instance, having teenage passengers. According to a study conducted by AAA, the risks of drivers ages 16-17 dying increase by 44 percent with one teenage passenger, double with two and quadruple with three or more teenage passengers.

To help alleviate these distractions, try to enforce a policy of no cell phones while driving and have clear rules about who is allowed in your teenager’s car. Parents have a right to restrict driving, and it is reasonable to expect your son or daughter to do what is necessary to be at their best when getting behind the wheel.

Morgan Peterson, 16, says the best advice his parents have given him is, “Always be aware,” and with regards to cell phones, “If it’s that important, pull to the side of the road.”

In the end, if the approach to learning to drive responsibly is seen as a partnership, it can be a good experience for all parties concerned.

Defensive Driving

Despite the best preventative measures, it is still natural to worry about the teenage driver. Sunshine Smith of Solon worries that her son, Morgan, will not have “the quick thinking that comes with experience.”

Putt suggests practicing “what if” scenarios while in the car. Pose questions such as: “What if that person doesn’t stop?” “What if something falls off that truck?” It is a common concern that teens think themselves invincible. Practicing how to react when something does go wrong helps them think in those terms.

Mark Rust, 17, of Chagrin Falls has learned, “It’s all about the decision making. It’s great to be an attentive driver, but some situations are hard.”

Teens can help their cause by being willing to listen and apply the advice they are given.

Cars For Teen Drivers

There are lists to help parents find the best fit for their teen. The cars vary but consistently focus on ones that are safe, reliable, affordable and easy to drive. Safety ratings can be found at iihs.org/iihs/ratings. A wealth of other information can be found at nhtsa.gov.

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