It’s the day your kid’s been waiting for but you’ve been dreading. Your baby (was it really sixteen years ago you counted those toes and watched her sleep in your arms?) is ready to drive! He assumes that a driver’s license means he’s skilled behind the wheel. You worry over the statistics about fatal accidents. Here are six tips to keep your teenager safe behind the wheel.
Set sensible limits. The National Safety Council notes that teens who drive with other teens in the car as passengers have more accidents. Whether this is due to the distraction of having friends nearby, whether your kid wants to show off for his buddies, or whether the noise level of kids and car stereos make it harder to concentrate, the statistics don’t lie. Set limits for your son or daughter of one friend in the car at a time until your child shows she can handle the responsibility. Limiting the time your kid drives after dark or insisting that an adult drive with them after dark gives new drivers the chance to gain experience while minimizing the risks.
Use the carrot…and the stick. Give your teenager a stake in good driving. Reward her for taking driver’s ed, for lowering your insurance rates by qualifying for a good student discount, for running errands for you in a responsible way. Penalize him if he messes up by cutting his driving time when he blows in late for curfew or by making him pay for his traffic tickets and the resulting insurance increases himself.
Don’t buy her a car. When I was an insurance agent in a busy college town, I noticed that students who paid for their own vehicles got fewer tickets, had fewer accidents, and made smarter choices than kids whose parents gave them wheels with no strings attached. Sure, you may want to pay the lion’s share of the cost for his first car, but make sure your teenager has skin in the game. Insist that your son or daughter keeps up with the maintenance of the car. These lessons are good training for the day your kid’s on his own.
Zero tolerance. Some offenses are zero-tolerance offenses. Texting while driving is a zero tolerance offense in our house. Driving after drinking is another one. Make sure your kid is crystal clear on the severity of the penalty for these risky behaviors and if you have to enforce your rules, do it without pity. Your child’s life depends on it.
Driving is a privilege, not a right. Help your teenager to understand the responsibilities as well as enjoying the fun of driving.
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