According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teen drivers are more likely than any other age group to be involved in a fatal car crash caused by distracted driving. What role can parents take to reduce the risk that their child will be involved in a car accident because of distracted driving? While you can’t be with your child every minute, you can have an influence on what kind of driver your teen becomes. It is possible to help your teen develop a lifetime of good driving habits by following these three simple steps:
Have the Talk About Distracted Driving
Talk to your teen about the serious responsibility required in driving a vehicle. Discuss all the aspects of being a safe driver with your teen and set forth clearly defined ground rules for when your teen gets behind the wheel. This should not be a one-time conversation, but rather an ongoing dialogue especially during the first few months of solo driving. Understanding the most common distractions while driving is the first step in prevention. Distracted driving includes using a cell phone for talking or texting, eating and drinking while driving, interacting with passengers, reading maps or using a navigation system, and adjusting the music.
Every time your teen leaves the house with the car keys, you should have a conversation about where your child is going, who will be in the car, and how long your teen will be gone. Take this opportunity to remind your teen to use a seat belt and avoid common driving distractions. Constantly reinforcing good driving behavior will help your child be a safer driver and possibly avoid being involved in a car crash.
Know the Laws in Your State
Most states have a provisional license period that allows teens to drive a car alone, but with restrictions in place for an initial period of time. In the state of Virginia, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using handheld or hands-free cell phones while driving. Drivers of all ages are prohibited from texting while driving. Virginia has curfew laws in place that prohibit drivers under the age of 18 from driving between the hours of midnight to 4 a.m. Additionally, drivers under the age of 18 can carry only one non-family passenger during the first year of holding a driver’s license.
The Driving Contract
Parents need to set rules for their teen drivers and be actively involved in monitoring their teen’s driving. Taking pro-active steps to avoid distracted driving can prevent a car crash and save your child’s life. A parent-teen agreement is a great way set forth clearly defined rules for safe driving. This contract helps parents and teens formalize an agreement with one another on specific driving activities that will promote a lifetime of safe driving. It is important to be consistent and follow up regularly on the agreement you have both signed. Reward good driving practices and enforce restrictions on aggressive driving behavior. Staying actively involved can prevent bad driving practices from forming and can help prevent a car wreck and tragedy on the road.
For information on a parent-teen agreement and additional suggestions on how to talk to your child about avoiding distractions while driving, visit http://www.distraction.gov/ for great tips and information.
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