It’s the moment parents dread and teens can’t wait for: getting a driver’s license. Teens are eager to gain their independence, but parents understand that the road can be a very dangerous place.
Here’s how to make sure that your teen is a safe driver.
Education is Key
Safety starts with education. Education can come in the form of classroom training, but it should also come in the form of hands-on experience.
Schools have driver’s ed programs, which is a great start. Private instruction is also a great option. But both of these typically only provide six hours of on-the-road instruction. New drivers really need closer to 50 hours of on-the-road experience.
Along with supervised, hands-on instruction, teens should also be educated on the dangers of distracted driving. Distracted driving is a major contributor to teen accidents and deaths.
Texas actually requires teens to complete a course on the dangers of distracted driving before taking the driving skills test. These programs include:
- Impact Texas Teen Drivers (ITTD): A free, two-hour informational video that details the dangers of distracted driving. The video includes real stories of teens who have lost their lives due to distracted driving. This course is for teens and young adults aged 15-24.
- Impact Texas Young Drivers (ITYD): A free, one-hour informational video that discusses the dangers of distracted driving and includes real life stories of teens who have lost their lives. This course is for adults aged 18 and older.
Considering there were 14,202 serious injury car crashes in Texas in a recent year, it’s not surprising that the state takes additional measures to reduce teen accidents and fatalities. If you have any questions regarding an accident contact Board-Certified attorney Michael P. Fleming in Houston. Mr. Fleming has over 30 years of experience.
A Graduated Driver License Program Can Help
Many states have a graduated driver’s license (GDL) program, which helps teens improve their driving skills over time. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages GDL programs, particularly those that require teens to drive with adult supervision for two years.
According to the CDC, comprehensive GDL programs have reduced fatal crashes and overall crashes among 16-year-old drivers.
Texas has a comprehensive GDL program with two phases:
- Learner License: For teens under 18. Must be held for at least six months prior to the issuing of a provisional license.
- Provisional License: Once a learner license has been held for six months, an Impact Texas Drivers course has been completed, and the driver has completed the classroom and behind-the-wheel requirements, he or she may graduate to a provisional license. With a provisional license, the driver may not drive with more than one passenger in the vehicle under the age of 21 or between the hours of midnight and 5am (some exceptions apply).
Even if your state does not have a GDL program, you can implement your own. You can set a probationary period of six months or even extend the learner’s permit stage to ensure your teen gets more supervised training.
Make Sure Your Teen’s Vehicle is Safe
It’s important for teens to understand the rules of the road and to drive safely. But accidents can still happen even when teens drive cautiously. If your teen is driving a safe vehicle, this reduces the risk of severe injury or death.
Teens should drive midsize or full-size cars with air bags. Larger vehicles have greater crash protection, but steer clear of SUVs. SUVs have a higher center of gravity, which makes them more prone to roll-overs.
Be a Good Role Model
Practice what you preach. Don’t use your phone while driving. Make sure that you wear your seatbelt at all times. Don’t speed or weave in and out of traffic. Don’t get into a fit of road rage when someone cuts you off.
Be a good role model for your teen, and your teen will be more likely to follow in your footsteps.
Lay Down Ground Rules
As the parent of a teen driver, it’s important to lay down some ground rules. If any of your rules are broken, driving privileges should temporarily be taken away.
Here are some example rules you may want to consider:
- No more than two friends in the vehicle at a time.
- No nighttime driving.
- No driving more than a certain number of miles from home without permission.
- Music must be kept at a moderate level.
- No friends in the vehicle that are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- No texting or talking on the phone while driving.
- Pull over to check GPS or enter directions.
- No eating or drinking while behind the wheel.
Feel free to implement your own rules of the road. But be sure to enforce them!
Education, patience and the enforcement of rules can help make your teen a safe driver. There’s no surefire way to prevent an accident, but you can give your teen all of the tools needed to drive safely and defensively.