Seventy-five percent of fatal teen car crashes—the top killer of young people in the United States—involve reckless or distracted driving. While these facts may be scary for parents or guardians of adolescents, there are things you can do to help your child stay safe.
Be a role model
You may not be thinking about your child learning how to drive when they’re still a toddler, but children begin to learn what safe driving looks like as soon as they’re old enough for a forward-facing car seat. Like little sponges, they watch what you’re doing and absorb your behavior—whether it’s good or bad. To help lay a foundation for safe driving, set a good example for them from an early age by avoiding driving aggressively and removing all distractions in the car. This means no eating or drinking; checking, texting or talking on your phone; adjusting the radio; putting on makeup; or doing anything else that requires you to take your eyes off the road or hands off the wheel.
Learn the laws
Most states place extra restrictions on young drivers by issuing them a graduated driver license (GDL). Many times, the rules of a GDL include not driving late at night or having more than one friend in the vehicle, among other things. Regardless of the specific limits a state places on teen drivers, the goal is to help keep them safe until they gain more driving experience.
Talk to your teen early and often about your expectations for them as a new driver. You may also want to discuss the consequences they may face for not following the rules you set—or any of the laws that come as part of holding a GDL. A parent-teen driving agreement can help you navigate these conversations and ensure everyone is on the same page. Get started with this free example from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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