Most teenagers cannot wait to get their driver’s license and the keys to a car. Although driving is a rite of passage and an exciting time in a teen’s life, it is also a scary time—especially for parents. This is because statistics show that motor vehicle accidents are still the number one cause of death for teens in the U.S. According to recent crash statistics from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), 99,000 teen drivers were injured in crashes in 2015 and 1,972 teen drivers were involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents for the same year.
While most parents want their teens to be aware of the risks associated with driving, they aren’t especially sure how to approach talking with their teens in the right way. Many parents try to scare their teens straight with deadly statistics and horrific pictures, hoping it will get their teens to take driving seriously. However, approaching it in this way can cause teens to shut down, according to information distributed by the team behind National Teen Driver Safety Week.
It is important that parents find a way to discuss the dangers of driving in a positive way. By discussing good driving habits with teen drivers, it may help change their risky behaviors behind the wheel. We focus on the positive safety messages parents can give their teens and the actions teens can take to stay safe behind the wheel.
Safety Strategies for Parents of Teen Drivers
Here are some talking points for parents of teen drivers who want to encourage their teens with positive driving safety messages:
- Focus on the driving task. Although parents might want to tell their teenagers that using a cell phone while driving can kill, it is best to stick to the positive facts. The key message here is that focused driving will reduce your chances of getting into an accident. Virginia’s law for teen drivers is very clear: they are prohibited from using their cell phones in any capacity while driving.
- Buckle up. Instead of focusing on the fact that not wearing a seat belt can lead to death, parents can rephrase this negative message in a positive way: seat belts save lives. Parents can let their teens know how much they care about them by repeating this message frequently. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use of all age groups. This is why parents need to encourage their teens to buckle up on each trip.
- Respect the law. Having a vehicle filled with passengers causes a driver to be distracted, and teen drivers are no exception. In fact, teens are more susceptible to distractions due to their inexperience at the wheel. Because the law in our state prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from carrying more than one passenger, the key here is for parents to encourage their teen drivers to respect the law.
- Stay in control. Parents need to urge their teens to drive the speed limit so they will be able to stay in control of their vehicles. Parents can explain why speeds are reduced in residential and school zones and also discuss why it is important to drive more slowly in bad weather. Key message: By driving at an appropriate speed for the conditions, you’ll be able to control your vehicle.
- Value yourself. It’s no secret that some teenagers drink or use drugs and drive. And although adults know that impaired driving affects one’s awareness, judgment, and reaction times, teens sometimes aren’t aware of these facts or don’t believe any harm will come to them. Instead of threatening kids about drinking and driving, parents need to have open conversations with their teens and be available if they need a designated driver.
When parents lead by example and have these conversations with their teen drivers, it can go a long way in keeping their children safe on the road. We encourage you to use these talking points when speaking with your teenagers about driving safety, and we urge you to share this blog on your favorite social media site so that those you know can also benefit from this message.