Parents Hold the Key to Teen Driver Safety

This article was written by Christine Norris. Christine is Communications Manager at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute. 

Parents Hold the Key to Teen Driver Safety

Parents play a crucial role in teen driver safety. Teens who say their parents set rules and pay attention to their activities in a helpful, supportive way are half as likely to be in a crash. The greatest chance of crashing for teens occurs during the first six to 12 months after receiving a license. Consider these tips for keeping teen drivers safe.

6 Ways to Help Keep Teen Drivers Safe

  1. Provide plenty of parent-supervised driving practice. Teens exit the learner’s permit period of driving with significant skill deficits. This leads to a much higher risk of crashing compared with more experienced drivers. Experts at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia created the TeenDrivingPlan Practice Guide to help parents prepare their teens to be safe drivers. This guide also teaches parents the best ways to help their teens practice for the driver’s license exam.
  2. Control the keys. Teens that own or have easy access to a car are more than twice as likely to crash when compared to teens who share a car with family members. Having to ask to use the car also gives teen and parents the opportunity to talk. This includes discussing plans for driving, where they’re going and when they will be back.
  3. Co-develop house rules. Parents should work with teens to establish house rules for driving and the consequences for not following the rules. This includes no texting or talking on the phone while driving and no driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Your teen wants to hear and deserves to know the reasons for the rules. Make it clear the rules are there for safety, not control. By jointly setting house driving rules, teens are more likely to follow them. A parent-teen driving contract may be helpful in establishing these rules. Whatever contract you choose, be sure to include the agreement that if your child comes to you due to a potentially unsafe situation, you will pick him or her up — without judgment.   
  4. Follow Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL). Because they are still learning and not as skilled as other drivers, newly licensed teens benefit from having initial limitations on driving privileges. Although GDL provisions vary by state, all GDL programs are in place to ensure teens gradually and safely gain the experience they need.
  5. Encourage two-way communication. Monitoring is important, but it’s not always enough to keep teens safe. Start early, way before your teen is in the driver’s seat, to establish mutual trust. Parents should listen and be responsive to a teen’s concerns. Watch a video for tips on how to talk to your teen about the important responsibilities that come with driving.
  6. Be the scapegoat for safety. Part of keeping your teen safe is knowing when to help. It’s important that your teen knows not to drive or get in a car with anyone that is drunk, drugged, or drowsy. Remind your teen that you are always a call or text away. Consider developing a code word to be used when your teen needs to be picked up from an unsafe situation. It is a great thing to add to a parent-teen driving contract.
Teens who say their parents set rules and pay attention to their activities in a helpful, supportive way are half as likely to be in a crash.

Take Initiative

Preparing teens to be safe drivers can be life-saving. Take the initiative to establish rules about driving. And educate yourself by checking out available resources that can support you to keep your teens safe behind the wheel.


About Center for Parent and Teen Communication

CPTC is fortunate to receive editorial contributions from a range of multi-disciplinary experts, journalists, youth, and more.

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