When new drivers get their licenses, they see it as a source of freedom and a sign they are growing up.
But for their parents, it can bring worry and nervousness – and for good reason. Car accidents are the No. 1 cause of death among teenagers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), accounting for about 2,800 fatalities each year.
It’s a scary number. But there are ways parents can help their teens hit the road with confidence and help them be safe and courteous drivers.
Here are some tips to help you prepare your new drivers as they get behind the wheel:
The best way to gain confidence behind the wheel is to practice. The National Safety Council says inexperience is a leading cause of crashes involving teens.
Make sure your teens have plenty of practice driving in a variety of environments, both before and after they get their licenses.
Start with daytime driving and add practice driving at night and in inclement weather to prepare your teen for any situation. Do driving lessons in parking lots and on the freeway but even after your teen is licensed, ask him or her to drive while running simple errands that can double as a supervised driving practice.
At the same time, remember your children are always watching you. Model good driving habits when your teens are in the car with you, such as obeying the speed limit, checking blind spots, using turn signals and avoiding distractions while driving.
Part of being a safe driver is being able to take care of the car you are driving. Explain the safety features of the car he or she is driving to your child, as well as what to look out for if something sounds or feels different.
Teach your child to fill the tank with gas, how to change a flat tire, how to recognize low tire pressure and how to fill the tires with air, and what to do if the car has a mechanical problem while driving, including safe places to pull over and how to get help.
Make sure your teen knows what it means to be a careful, courteous driver. Set clear expectations for driving behavior, and make sure you and your teen know and follow any special laws for young drivers.
Many states have graduated licensing laws, subjecting teens to driving restrictions as they gain more practice. In South Carolina, the youngest drivers can drive alone only in daylight hours and are limited to having two passengers under the age of 21.
As the parent, you also need set your own rules regarding driving for your teens, including curfews and other restrictions such as no cellphone use, how far they may drive, what types of roads they may take and who they can have in the car. It’s important that you then enforce those rules and continually drive home the importance of safe driving as your teens gain more experience.
- CDC – Teen Drivers: Fact Sheet
- National Safety Council – What Parents Can Do
- South Carolina DMV – Conditional License for 15 Year Old Drivers