Having a teenager who is learning to drive can be one of parenthood’s most nerve-racking times. Not only are our children being given the keys to more freedom, they are being given control of a potentially dangerous motor vehicle.
Here in Fairfield County, where highways can be dicey and back roads can be slippery, encouraging our youngest drivers to navigate the roads safely is of the utmost importance. Here are some sobering statistics from the CDC:
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, accounting for more than one in three deaths in this age group. In 2009, eight teens ages 16 to 19 died every day from motor vehicle injuries. Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.
At Willows Pediatrics we want to make sure all of our patients remain healthy and unharmed. So, with that in mind, here are some tips for keeping your teen drivers safe.
First, and arguably most important, is to be a good role model. Even when children are younger, parents should always drive safely and responsibly. Many parents would be surprised by how closely their kids are watching everything they do. So, if you are multitasking in the car (eating, making lists, talking on your phone) and have not had an accident, your child is likely to think these behaviors are OK for them to engage in too. Therefore, we urge you to wear your seatbelt, stay within speed limits, obey traffic signals, never allow alcohol or illegal drugs in your car and refrain from not engaging in distracting behaviors when behind the wheel.
In addition, parents should set specific driving rules with their children and enforce penalties related to breaking those rules. The American Academy of Pediatrics has put together a useful Parent-Teen Driving Agreement that parents can print out and review with their teenager. It sets forth expectations and consequences in a very clear manner. We highly recommend talking through this contract with your teen and signing it together. By following through with this, you can play an important role in keeping your child safe on the roads.
A few other tips: make sure the car your teen is driving is in safe and good condition; spend time in the car while your teen practices driving; and know Connecticut state driving laws.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns—or just want to talk about teen driving and safety—we are here for you! We are always eager to help you and your children make good choices that will keep everyone safe.