NHTSA reminds parents that safe teen driving requires restrictions

Becoming a licensed driver is a rite of passage in the lives of American youth. Some parents take an active role in their children’s initial driving years, while others adopt more of a “sink or swim” approach. Regardless of their methods, most parents care deeply about their children’s safety behind the wheel. However, evidence strongly suggests that teens whose parents actively teach, monitor and enforce restrictions related to their driving habits are less likely to be involved in devastating car accidents.

As a result, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently urged parents to create and enforce driving safety limits and general rules for teens who are old enough to be behind the wheel. While it may often seem as if teens do not care how their parents act or what they say, evidence supports the premise that parental modeling and rule enforcement have a significant impact in the driving habits that teens develop.

This message is critical, given that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among older American teenagers. So what can parents do specifically to keep their teens safer? The NHTSA suggests the following:

• Model safe and responsible driving behavior when your teen is in the car with you

• Study your particular state’s graduated driver licensing laws, restrictions and the rationale behind them in order to understand what is expected of your teen from law enforcement in your state

• Draft and have your teen sign a family driving contract that outlines the rules he or she must follow and the consequences that will follow from breaking these rules

• Forbid distracted driving behavior such as texting behind the wheel and download apps to help enforce this prohibition

• Limit the number of teen passengers allowed in the vehicle when your teen is driving and limit non-essential night driving, as both of these factors are serious safety risks

• Drive with your child regularly and give them feedback on their approach

Source: Consumer Affairs, “Parents Urged to Establish Rules of the Road for Teen Drivers,” James Limbach, Oct. 18, 2012