Child Safety - Miller & Zois

Driving Safety for Teenagers

Teen DrivingLearning how to drive is an important step your child will take in their life. Driving is an opportunity for them to become more independent. However, most parents are frightened at the idea of their teen getting on the road for the first time on their own. You probably envision all the different scenarios that could happen: what if they’re not paying attention, what if they text and drive, or what if they get into an accident? You should make your child understand that driving is only a privilege. It is a skill that they must know how to use in a responsible manner. Parents should lay out ground rules that their teen must always follow, at least until you feel comfortable with their driving skills. Below we’ve provided some insight on how to keep your child safe on the road.

What are the Most Important Driving Rules I Should Teach my Teen?
  • They should always buckle up whenever they drive, no matter how slow they’re going or how close the destination is. Explain to your child just how important seatbelt use is and the consequences they could face if they don’t wear one. Statistics tell us that seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017 alone, and 47% of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2017 were unrestrained. It is not something your teen can afford to not wear.
  • Tell your child to always stay focused on the road. Driving distracted will dramatically increase the risk for accidents. Discourage them from using their phone, eating, playing loud music, or doing their makeup while behind the wheel.
  • Discourage your child from playing any loud music while driving as it could be a significant distraction. If your teen is just starting out, don’t allow them to play music at all.
  • Strongly enforce a no texting and driving rule. Texting and driving is a huge problem in the country, and most teens admit to doing it despite knowing the risks. Texting and driving can quickly turn into a life-or-death situation because drivers have reduced reaction time while being distracted by their phone. You can be a good example for your child by staying focused on the road and not texting while driving yourself.
  • Your child must follow the speed limit because speeding makes them more likely to cause an accident. Excessive speeding is the cause of many teen-related car accidents. Your child has little experience with getting a feel for their driving speed. When your child drives too fast, they have less time to stop or react. This poses a danger for both them and others. Maintaining a steady speed helps your child stop safely on the road. Let your child know when they are driving too fast, so they know how to monitor your speed.
  • Set some ground rules for your child to follow once they get their license. This means giving them a time in the evening that they are not to use the car. Bar them from driving with friends and allow them to use the car for going to school and emergencies such as errands. Setting these rules gives your child a disciplined approach to driving.
Why is Road Experience Significant to Safe Driving?

Inexperience behind the wheel increases the risk of causing an accident. Your child’s reflexes are not developed enough to a level where they can act immediately during an emergency. They have also not acquired skills that an experienced driver has. They include awareness and interaction with the flow of traffic. Many teens shrug off their parents worries by claiming they know how to drive. This may be true, but inexperience automatically increases their risk of causing or being in an accident. There’s a reason why most insurance companies charge higher rates for car insurance for teens and young adults.

Why is Good Posture Important to Driving?

Having the right posture ensures that your child drives safely and effectively. Sitting up straight in the driver’s seat helps them see the road ahead of them. Do not allow them to recline the seat into a position that could interfere with their field of vision. Some teens think driving in a reclined position appears cooler, but this is just an accident waiting to happen. They should also hold the steering wheels in the 3 and 9 o’clock positions. Failure to do this can result in their hands flying in their face when airbags are deployed.

What Distance Should my Child Keep Between Them and Other Cars?

Maintaining ample distance between one’s car and others is crucial to avoiding accidents. Discourage your child from tailgating, which even experienced drivers continue to do. Talk to them about how to avoid and control road rage, as it is inevitable that they’ll eventually become frustrated with someone on the road. Your child should maintain a distance of at least two seconds away from vehicles in front of them. When your child is driving at higher speeds, they should be further away from the vehicle in front of them. This decreases their risk of causing an accident, despite their speeding.

What is Defensive Driving, and why Should my Child Learn how to Drive This way?

Defensive driving is:

  • Your child has only one thing to stay focused on while driving, and it is the road. Driving is a cerebral task that requires anticipation of many different variables on the road. These variables include paying attention to road conditions, speed, traffic laws, road markings, following directions, and awareness of other cars around them. Staying focused on the road ensures safe driving.
  • Always remaining alert is also very important. It ensures that your child can react to difficult scenarios on the road. These scenarios may include the driver of the car in front slamming the brakes hard at the last minute. This requires keeping a good distance away and knowing to brake appropriate to prevent a potential rear-end collision.
  • Drivers should plan ahead and expect the unexpected. You never know what could suddenly happen on the road. Don’t expect drivers to do what you should they should be doing.
How Should my Child Drive in Poor Weather Conditions?

Poor weather conditions are scary for any driver, regardless of experience. However, for those with no experience, such conditions are especially scary because they do not know how to properly handle them. Rain, hail, and snow can significantly impact traction, which makes it important to slow down. If your child speeds in these conditions, they will likely lose on control of their car and crash. They should also keep their headlights, regardless of the time of day, to remain visible to other motorists. If you can, have them practice driving in poor weather conditions, while in a controlled environment such as a vacant parking lot. Tell your child to avoid driving if weather conditions appear too dangerous, even if they feel like their plans are important. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

What Should my Child do When They are in an Accident?

Your child should take several steps to ensure their safety and the safety others in the case of an accident. If there are injuries, call 9-1-1 immediately. Someone must take photos of the vehicles and other relevant information such as the car insurance information for all parties involved. File a police report, which can be done by calling for them to come to the scene. You and your child can also go to your local police station to file the report if no police were called. Call your insurance company as well and send them photos that show the extent of damage. If you are not at the scene, your child should call you as soon as they can. Drivers must exchange information that includes phone numbers, license plates, and insurance information.

How Should my Child Approach Alcohol and Driving?

In addition to discouraging underage drinking, emphasize to your child how important it is to drive sober. Have them understand that one drink can impair their judgement and reflexes significantly. They should also understand that the legal blood alcohol content limit for anyone under 21 is zero. If your child does end up drinking, they should have a plan to get home safely. Set up a ground rule that they are always allowed to call you for a ride if they drink too much, even if they’re not supposed to be drinking. Set a good example for them by not drinking and driving yourself. Teens witnessing their parents drinking and driving will think it is acceptable for them to do so themselves.

Sources and Additional Literature

Hamann, C., et al. (2019). Influence of Family Communication Patterns on Teen Risky Driving and Driving Intervention Effectiveness (No. 19-01432).

Classen, S., et al. (2019). An integrative review on teen distracted driving for model program development. Frontiers in public health, 7, 111.

Das, S., et al. (2019). Understanding crash potential associated with teen driving: Survey analysis using multivariate graphical method. Journal of Safety Research, 70, 213-222.

Duddu, V. R., et al. (2019). Crash risk factors associated with injury severity of teen drivers. IATSS research, 43(1), 37-43.

Knezek, C. M., et al. (2019). A Multitiered Holistic Approach to Traffic Safety: Educating Children, Novice Teen Drivers and Parents, and Crash Investigators to Reduce Roadway Crashes-An Eight-Year Introspective Project. In Transportation. IntechOpen.

Delgado, M., et al. (2019). Perceptions of Smartphone Technology for Reducing Cellphone Use While Driving Among Teen Drivers and Their Parents (No. 19-03659).