Each year, roughly 2,000 teens in the San Ramon Valley are eligible to receive their license. Traffic crashes are also the leading cause of death in the United States among teens. As a parent, you have the responsibility to support your teen and prepare your teenager for driving.
Top Ten Things You Can Do as a Parent
1. Set a good example.
Be a role model. When you are on the road, follow traffic rules and regulations. Obey the speed limit, follow stop signs and signals, and don’t talk on the phone while driving. Keep a positive attitude and don’t give in to road rage. Drive the way you want your children to drive.
2. Learn the facts.
There are cold, hard truths. Traffic crashes are the #1 cause of death among teens in the United States. Every day, over 10 young drivers aged 15 to 20 are killed in crashes- with 745 injured. 25% of crashes killing young drivers involve alcohol. Share these the facts with your teen- and don’t become a statistic.
3. Be involved.
You have the experience of driving on the road, so start to have an honest dialogue with your teen about driving at a young age. If they do not have a learner’s permit yet, talk to them about the rules of the road. When they do have a learner’s permit and have begun drivers education courses, give them an opportunity to drive behind the wheel with your supervison. The more experience for your teen, the better.
4. Set up a Parent-Teen Driving Contract
While verbal agreements are great, there is nothing like a formal agreement on paper that outlines expectations of teens and parents. Also included in the agreement is a division of who pays for what- including gasoline, maintenance and insurance.
5. See that your teen understands that driving is a privilege.
Given the number of cars parked at high schools in the San Ramon Valley, your teen may think that driving is a right. The reality is that more teens are driving now than ever before. Your teen should know that driving is a privilege and that failure to observe traffic rules can result in major consequences: the high cost of tickets, increased insurance rates, damage to the vehicle, and possibly bodily injury or death.
6. Emphasize that drinking and driving is dangerous.
As a parent, you may not think that your teen has access to, or is the type of teen who would drink alcohol. The reality is that teens often do. Talk to them about drinking- and especially drinking and driving. More than half of alcohol-related deaths involve 16 to 20 year olds. Reduce their chances of drinking and driving by knowing where your teen is going, and knowing the parents of those who your teens hang out with.
7. Limit teens’ driving distractions.
Teens are new to driving- and the last thing they need is to be distracted on the road. Prohibit the use of cell phones in the car. The new California law took effect on July 1, 2008 that restricted the use of cell phones- even with hands-free devices- while driving. Tell them only to use their cell phones once they’ve pulled over to the side of the road- whether they’re talking or texting. Playing music in the car at loud volumes can also be distracting, as well as eating, styling their hair or applying makeup.
8. Get your teen to respect others.
Driving is a privilege, and your teen should know to respect others on the road- drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike. Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists and sharing the road with cyclists can be emphasized, as well as taking it slow in parking lots.
9. Reinforce seat belt usage.
While over 95% of Californians wear seat belts, the fact that seat belts saves lives cannot be overemphasized. Some teens may think that “wearing a seat belt is uncool,” so be sure to give them the big picture.
10. Know who your teens are riding with.
Just like how you should know who your teen’s friends and friend’s parents are, know who they are riding with. Are they a competent driver? Are they legally allowed to drive other teens? Don’t only check with your teen, but check with your teen’s friend’s parents and follow California law.