Many crashes that involve teens have common factors. Wisconsin’s Graduated Drivers Licensing law aims to help reduce the factors associated with teen driving crashes, but research shows that talking with a parent can have far more impact on changing a teen’s behavior.
As parents, we can do a lot to make our kids safer drivers. First, don’t wait until your teen turns 15 1/2? to start talking about safe driving. Many teens are front seat passengers long before they are driving. Take advantage of this time to point out safe and unsafe driving that you see on the road.
Second, be a role model for your teen. If you want your teen to wear a seat belt, obey the speed limit and drive defensively, you need to do these things yourself.
You also can talk to your teen about your expectations for safe driving. You may assume that your teen knows the rules, but it’s important take time to talk about them. When you do, make sure to discuss common factors in many teen crashes:
- Make sure everyone in the car is buckled up.
- Prohibit cell phone use, both talking and texting.
- Limit other distractions in the car (music, things rolling around).
- Restrict the number of passengers in the car.
- Minimize nighttime driving.
- Talk about speeding, using alcohol and other risk-taking behaviors.
Finally, you can form a contract between you and your teen driver to spell out the expectations. When my daughter started driving, we talked about these things and each added a special key to our keychains to represent our agreement. When she gets in the car, she has a reminder right in her hand. We received ours from www.k-e-y-s.com, but you can go to any hardware store and pick out two matching keys.
Some families prefer to use a written contract. Many examples can be found through insurance companies, auto manufacturers and health and safety agencies.
Be sure to look for Children’s Health Education Center’s Cruise Control program at the Milwaukee Auto Show Sunday, Feb. 28. We’ll have sample contracts available and can answer questions regarding your teen driver.
Check out BlueKids.org/CruiseControl for more information.
-Deena Liska, motor vehicle safety educator, Children’s Health Education Center