The day has finally come – your little one is all grown up at the ripe, old age of 15 and you are gearing up for the day that they pop into a vehicle and drive off all on their own. As a parent, you are probably ecstatic knowing that you will soon be able to cross carpool duty off of your schedule. However, you can’t help but notice that ping of anxiety forming in the pit of your stomach. You can see it now: your teen bopping along to Justin Bieber or jamming out to screamo music with their friends in the car, trying to look super cool while inadvertently breaking a million traffic laws.
Concerns like these are extremely valid. Unfortunately, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Statistically, teen drivers are almost three times more likely to get into a deadly crash.
Research shows that supporting your teen on a basic level is not enough to ensure good driving skills. In fact, a study that was conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said that 54% of teens still made critical driving errors even after six months of driving with a parent or coach. Additionally, the Ohio Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics indicates the crash rate for 16 and 17 year olds is almost 9x greater than that of the general public. Parents play an essential role in teaching their children successful driving techniques and habits, and as a parent, it is imperative that you are an active participant in your child’s learning.
AVOID THESE COMMON MISTAKES THAT PARENTS MAKE
Losing Your Cool
It goes without saying that children require sincere support and positive reinforcement to bloom and grow. Do not forget this during those imminent driving lessons with your teen. It’s hard not to let out a panic yell while you’re sitting in the passenger seat and changing lanes feels like a real- life game of Frogger. As hard as it may be to do, loosen your grip on that “Oh Shoot!”-grip and compliment your teen when they practice good judgement. Staying calm sets a good example and if your teen winds up under pressure while they’re driving in the future, they’ll be able to remain composed and make rational, prudent decisions.
Not Planning Out Your Drives
Planning out your driving lessons is a vital component of the learning process, and luckily, there are planning tools out there to help make sure that both parents and teens remain accountable for the driving plans that they create. In another study conducted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, it was proven that teens who utilized a driving plan tool were a whopping 65% less likely to make dangerous mistakes. A plan will also help your teen log their driving hours and meet their necessary goals. Focus on certain skills for each driving lesson-start off easy and ramp up the complexity as your teen’s skills improve (for example, adding in nighttime driving, driving in bad weather, or driving on the highway). Mix up your routes and include new driving locations so your sessions continue to be challenging.
Becoming a Distracted Passenger
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, it is imperative that you are an active participant in your child’s learning. That includes your time spent as a passenger while they are driving. Take notes and give your teen feedback. Bonus points awarded for advancing their skills by teaching them how to be a defensive driver. Demonstrate how to scan the road for hazards, how to look for traffic patterns, etc. Try hard not to get distracted – you are their teacher.
Bringing up Outside Issues While Your Teen is Driving
Distracted and/or emotional teens with little experience behind the wheel? Yikes. This “alone time” is not a time to work out issues or discuss other matters. We know it can be difficult to get your teen to open up and talk to you, and in the car seems like the perfect opportunity for a captive audience, however it’s not the time or place to have a heart to heart. Keep your conversation limited to the task at hand and encourage your teen to remain focused.
Not Following the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Laws
In the U.S., each state has a set of Graduated Driver Licensing Laws that are intended to reduce high crash risk in teens by allowing them to gain safe driving experience while curtailing high risk situations like driving with friends in the car or driving at night. Drivers between the ages of 15-19 years old have a much higher vehicle crash risk and the GDL system has effectively lowered teen crashes by an average of 10-30%. By letting your teen wait to get their license until they are 18 years old to bypass the GDL laws, you would be doing an incredible disservice to them and to their safety.
Not Incorporating Web-Based Driving Simulators
Why would you not incorporate web-based driving simulators? They’re a blast! It’s like playing an educational version of Mario Kart and research shows that web-based interferences and materials significantly improve your teen’s driving performance. You and your teen will be able to clock in more practice time, focusing on particular skills in a safe environment.
ESTABLISHING RULES AND EXPECTATIONS WITH YOUR TEEN AROUND DRIVING SAFETY
Having face-to-face conversations with your children and establishing open communication from the get-go around safe driving practices is invaluable. It is the sensible thing to do as a parent and you will inevitably become a trusted and reliable source of support in your teen’s eyes so you can rest easy knowing that you will be in the loop if a situation were to arise.
Start these conversations with your children before they even start driving. Share your own driving experiences and touch on important safety issues like staying alert and focused while driving with friends in the car, and drinking and driving. These may be difficult conversations to have, but clearly defining your expectations early on could possibly prevent a sassy eyeroll, or worse, a blatant disregard for the rules when you go to enforce them post handing over the car keys.
That being said, stay vigilant. Stick to your guns and make sure to dole out consequences when those enforced rules are broken. Pro-tip! Consequences are most effective when there is a time specific task (example: no car for one week). Facing the consequences for one’s actions is part of the learning process and even though you may feel like the ‘bad guy’ in the moment, your teen will move forward as a much better driver.
Keep your own driving skills in check as well. 36% of teens say that their parents justify their bad driving behavior by using “well I have more experience” as an excuse. Just because you have more experience, doesn’t mean that you yourself are a safe driver. Put away your cell phone, plop your lipstick back into your purse, stop noshing on those pretzels, and turn down the music. Be cognizant-you have an observant teen in the car! You don’t want to make it seem as though the rules aren’t important, so be a good role model.
UPDATE YOUR AUTO INSURANCE AND STAY PROTECTED
Have you revisited your auto insurance policy lately? A lot of times, auto insurance only covers the basics to meet law requirements, which typically entails coverage for the damage you cause to other cars in instances of collision. Your auto insurance should have your back in more ways than one. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Camargo with questions regarding your coverage! Check in to see what your current policy looks like and add your teen to your policy to keep your whole family protected. For a comprehensive view of typical auto insurance policy coverages, check out our Clickable Coverage!
Don’t let your fear or anxiety dominate this pivotal moment in your child’s life. Easier said than done, I know, but this is an exciting time and you are so prepared for this! Do your best to avoid those pesky parental mistakes, execute your family’s driving plan, and your teen will be driving with ease in no time.