It’s the day every parent fears: Your child, who you swear was just in diapers, is showing you his shiny new learner’s permit and asking for time behind the wheel of the family minivan. If you’re scared, well, that’s just logic talking. After all, 16 year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age, according to DoSomething.org. That’s why it’s critical to make sure those first driving lessons really count. Here’s how you can make sure your teen is smart — and safe — behind the wheel.
Don’t just turn off their phone
Today’s teens are more connected than ever before, and that can make driving hazardous. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 660,000 American drivers are using cellphones during daylight hours, with cellphone use being highest among 16 to 24 year-olds.
Make sure your teen understands that texting or otherwise using the phone while driving isn’t just unacceptable; it’s also reckless. Don’t just make your child turn off her phone; ensure it is safely stowed away in the glove compartment where it won’t be a temptation.
As parents of teens, there’s a lot you have to tolerate. Alcohol consumption isn’t one of them. Not only is it illegal, it can also have serious effects on your child’s ability to drive safely. While teen drinking and driving has declined significantly in recent decades, 1 in 10 high school students still drinks and drives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Make sure your child is among the (much safer) nine.
Ask, don’t tell
One of the most important skills for a teen driver is learning to take notice of his surroundings. Rather than telling your child was she needs to know — like the fact that the speed limit is lower in a residential area or that it’s illegal to make a U-turn in front of a fire station — ask questions that require your teen to take notice of the outside world.
“What’s the speed limit here?” “How should you treat this crosswalk?” or “Who has the right of way?” are thought-provoking questions that will teach your teen to take notice of the road and those on it.
Plan, plan, plan
Jumping in the car with your teen without notice — or a planned destination — is a recipe for frustration (and possibly disaster). Help your child relax behind the wheel by planning your driving lessons in advance. Have a destination in mind and give your child plenty of time between directions to allow her to determine when to change lanes, how to signal and not wearing your teen out with infrequent long training sessions, opt for regular, short lessons that focus on one specific skill.
Lead by example
Kids are perceptive, and even though you may want them to do as you say, it’s much more likely they’ll emulate what you do. So when you get behind the wheel, think about how you’d like your teen to drive. Stow your cellphone in the glove compartment, buckle your seat belt, check your mirrors and keep yourself free from distractions — like programming your radio stations or inhaling a Big Mac on the freeway.
Know the protocol
You can be the world’s most brilliant driving instructor, but your teen could still wind up in a fender bender. Be sure he or she knows how to handle an accident when and if one occurs. Keep insurance cards and proof of registration in the glove compartment, and make sure your child has contact information for your insurance company, attorney and a trusted emergency contact if you’re unavailable.
Accidents can happen and victims need an attorney they can trust. The attorneys at Ed Bernstein & Associates have more than 40 years experience in personal injury law and understand its finer nuances. Visit edbernstein.com or call (702) 240-0000 to find out how to get started on the road to recovery.