As a parent, you may feel liberated, because you no longer have to chauffeur your teen from activity to activity and event to event. But at the same time, it is natural to experience anxiety as your child passes this important milestone. We see reports on the news and hear stories all the time of teens being injured or killed in road accidents. It’s instinctive to want to protect your child, even when you are not with them.
With that in mind, here are five quick safety tips for teen parents to keep in mind, whether their child is approaching driving age, just received their license, or has been driving for a while on their own.
1. Set age and experience-appropriate rules. Many states have laws regarding when minors can drive (many laws restrict driving between midnight and 6 a.m.) and how many people they can drive with in the car. You can (and should) also set your own rules as well. For example, you might require that your teen must text you when they arrive at their destination, and when they are leaving. Make sure you enforce these rules as well. Remind them that driving is a privilege, not a right, and don’t be afraid to revoke their driving privileges if you feel they are being unsafe while on the road.
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2. Make sure that your child understands any and all rules of the road. Even if you’ve coached them through hours of on-the-road driving, they’ve taken a driver’s education course, or they’ve passed their driver’s exam, there may still be driving conditions and situations that they haven’t necessarily encountered in their limited experience. Even just talking them through potential occurrences or starting a discussion about road hazards can be a helpful starting point.
3. Stress the importance of buckling up. Make sure that your teen and all passengers are using seat belts all the time, every time. Remind them that not only are they unnecessarily endangering themselves if they choose not to buckle up, they are also breaking the law. Similarly, make sure that you are setting a good example for your teen by buckling up every time you are in the car and requiring the same of all of your passengers.
4. If your teen is driving to and from school, remind them to be extra cautious and aware on the road. School zones have slower speed limits and bus stops along their route have children that may run into the road unexpectedly. Be sure that they know the road rules regarding school busses and traffic guards as well.
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5. Teach your teen the dangers of distracted driving. Set down strict rules regarding cell phone use while in the car. A big part of this is modeling good behavior for your child-that means making sure that you are not texting or talking on the phone while driving as well. Music and friends in the car can also be distracting to your teen, making them less likely to be aware of their surroundings. Remind them to keep these distractions to a minimum.
Look for part five of our Back-to-School Safety series in the upcoming weeks for more helpful tips to keep you and your children safe during the back-to-school season and throughout the school year.