Driving is a major responsibility for anyone — although learning the proper mechanics is something teens in particular need to understand before getting on the road. Case in point: Six teens die every day from car crash injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Knowing this information, if you’re working with your teen to get their learner’s permit or driver’s license, it’s time to sit down and have “the talk” — that is, about car responsibilities.
Be a Good Role Model
It’s no secret young people tend to emulate the actions, beliefs and attitudes of their parents, which is why you should always set a good example to teach and reinforce good habits. As such, when you get in your car, make it a habit (if it isn’t already) to put away your smartphone, fasten your seat belt and check your mirrors before starting the vehicle.
Additionally, you’ll always want to use your turn signal, follow the speed limit and keep your emotions in check. Never drink and drive or get behind the wheel if you aren’t feeling like yourself, and be open to discussing the decisions you make behind the wheel. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, your teen is watching you and will want to model your actions and behaviors.
When your teen gets their driver’s license, it’s important to set some important rules of the road beyond the relevant driving laws in your state. By clearly defining your expectations upfront, you’ll reduce conflicts, costly mistakes and other problems. Moreover, you’ll feel more confident and have better peace of mind about your teen’s driving abilities.
Fortunately, some states require teens to have progressive driving licenses that set limits on when they can drive and how many passengers are allowed in their vehicle at any one time. But even if your state doesn’t employ any restrictions for teen drivers, you should have open, honest discussions with your loved one about these important topics.
If you feel it necessary, draw up a safe driving contract with your teen to lay out any limits and responsibilities. For example, you may want to mention that they can only drive if they keep their grades up and stay out of trouble. Additionally, discuss any repercussions for distracted driving, including the use of their smartphone and ability to hang out with friends.
Continue the Discussion
Safe driving goes beyond explaining any important rules of the road. In fact, these conversations should be ongoing to ensure your teen maintains good driving habits and understands their responsibilities behind the wheel. While they should know the rules of the road, they also need to understand how to take care of their vehicle and when to take it in for maintenance.
For instance, if their tires are under inflated or don’t have enough tread, they could pop or slide on the road, creating a chain of events that could result in an accident. With that in mind, teach your teen how to check for symptoms of over-inflated tires and signs tires may need to be replaced, ensuring any new tires have an appropriate ply rating that measures strength and capacity.
As a parent, you also should discuss responsible driving behaviors and what to do in the case of an accident. While your teen may be reluctant to have these conversations, reinforce these conversations again and again. Because if they aren’t mature enough to talk about it, then they aren’t mature enough to get behind the wheel.
When All Else Fails, Reinforce the Rules Again and Again
Despite your best efforts and intentions, the information you share with your loved one may go in one ear and right out the other; after all, teens will be teens. Still, know that your teen is bound to make mistakes and/or circumvent your advice and rules while behind the wheel.
In these instances, it’s important to reinforce the rules you previously taught them or go back to the drawing board to implement new strategies. In the end, driving can be an inherently dangerous activity, which is why you need to do everything in your power to keep your teen — and everyone else on the road — safe.