Perhaps one of the scariest milestones for parents of a teenager is watching them drive off on their own. While we release some control from that moment on, it’s important to know that we, as parents, can still play a crucial role in shaping our children to be safe drivers. In fact, it’s our duty to do just that. Here’s how…
1. Keep an open dialog and make plans for the “what-ifs”
Let’s be honest, having an important conversation with a teen can be like pulling teeth. Awkward, frustrating, and downright painful are adjectives that come to mind. Still, we must give those tough talks a valiant effort (hold the car keys hostage if you must).
Here are a few questions that are great for opening dialog and strategizing the what-ifs…
- What would you do if you were in the vehicle with a friend who was driving recklessly?
Let your teen give their response and validate their answer before giving your own input or suggestions.
- What would you do if your ability to safely operate a vehicle was hindered by alcohol or drugs?
Don’t shy away from this crucial topic out of fear that it somehow condones the use of drugs or alcohol. Make your positions on this topic clear. However, let your teen know that if they find themselves in this situation, you want them to call you, or use a ride-share app, rather than drive because of their fear of getting in trouble… Try to table the topic of the consequences for another time.
- What will you do if you feel unsafe driving due to poor weather conditions?
After your teen gives their response, suggest a few options (i.e. pulling over and waiting out the storm, staying home, asking a more experienced driver for a ride, etc).
2. Set ground rules
Enforce the ground rules you set, but also stress the importance of driving safe vs. driving unsafe in order to follow the rules (i.e. speeding to get home before curfew)…
Here are a few other ground rules to consider…
- Set cell phones to “do not disturb” mode and/or in the glove box while driving.
- Set a curfew and/or restrict driving after dark.
- Restrict the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle.
- No eating, reading, doing makeup, texting, etc. while driving (both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times)
3. Get and give the facts
In today’s technology age, your teen’s driving habits don’t have to be a mystery. Consider an app like Find Friends, which is built into iPhones, or Life360, which is compatible on all devices, so that you can monitor your child’s location while driving and even view stats like their driving speed. This accountability, especially with new drivers, can be a powerful motivator.
Facts also can be a wake-up call for teens. Make sure they know the driving rules and penalties in your state for texting while driving and driving under the influence. Make them aware that, if they are in an accident, their phone records will almost certainly be subpoenaed to determine whether a text or a phone call played a role and who is at fault.
4. Lead by example
As parents, we have a greater impact on how our kids behave than we may realize. Did you know that texting while driving happens at higher rates for adults than teens.
Following the rules that we set for our kids will most certainly influence their decisions and the respect they have for the rules.
While talking to your teen about safe driving may seem intimidating, remind yourself that it’s not nearly as scary as the potential of your child being unsafe behind the wheel… So embrace the eye-rolls; as a parent, that means you’re doing something right… Good luck!