5 tips for handing teens the car keys
Each year as teens take driver’s education, parents face the scary moment when their child starts driving unaccompanied. The milestone comes with some serious dangers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens aged 16-19 are three times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than drivers ages 20 and older.
“Many parents worry that when their teen starts driving alone, there’s nothing they can do to keep them safe,” says Dr. Richard Fantus, trauma medical director at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “However, they can continue to teach them safe driving practices, which are critical for avoiding crashes or misadventures in those early years.”
Here are a few tips from Dr. Fantus for parents of teen drivers:
- Minimize high-risk situations. Make sure your teen follows your state’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws limiting new drivers’ nighttime driving, number of passengers and cell phone use. Decide whether to add rules such as a curfew or limits on highway driving. Continue to supervise your teen in risky driving situations until you are confident in their skills.
- Talk bluntly about drunk driving. Underage drinking is risky, illegal and when paired with inexperienced drivers, deadly. Teens should never drive with any alcohol in their system, get in the car with a drunk driver or allow passengers with alcohol in their car. Encourage your teen to always call you for a ride rather than risk their lives in these situations.
- Remind teens to buckle up. According to the National Safety Council, 66 percent of teens who die in crashes were not wearing seat belts. Your teen and all passengers should always wear seat belts.
- Set “no-phone” rules. Almost 60 percent of teen crashes involve distracted driving. New drivers should never use their phone, even hands-free. Avoid calling or texting your teen while they drive, as this is a major way they become distracted. Reading or sending a text takes their eyes off the road for up to five seconds. If driving at 55 miles per hour, that would be like driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed, warns the NHTSA.
- Be a good example. Your behavior influences your children from a young age. If you text, speed or drive while drowsy or tipsy, your teen will believe these practices aren’t that dangerous and be less likely to drive safely.
About the Author
Sophie Mark, health enews contributor, is a Public Affairs Intern at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. She is also a student at Loyola University Chicago, where she is completing her degrees in Advertising/Public Relations and English. In her free time she loves reading, baking, and exploring the city.