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Supporting Your Teen Behind the Wheel: Strategies for Parents to Ensure Safe Driving

teen learning to drive

Once your teenager gets a driver's permit or license, a whole new chapter of independence begins in their journey. Many of you have already been there, excited to reach this milestone in life. But now, as parents, you are on the other side where worry for your child’s safety has overshadowed the sense of excitement for their achievement. 

The more you think about your child venturing out on the open road, the more you become filled with a range of emotions – from pride to anxiety. Parents play a key role when it comes to shaping teens' driving habits and ensuring their safety. 

If you are wondering how to navigate this challenge, we've got you covered!

6 Strategies for Parents to Ensure Safe Driving

Here are six effective strategies for parents to ensure their teen's safe driving. Buckle up and get ready to steer your way. 

1. Understanding the Challenges

First and foremost, let’s look at the leading causes of crashes and injuries involving teen drivers: 

  1. Driver inexperience

  2. Driving with teen or young adult passengers

  3. Nighttime driving

  4. Not using seat belts

  5. Distracted driving

  6. Drowsy driving

  7. Reckless driving

  8. Impaired driving

Let's face it, when it comes to recognizing dangerous situations on the road, teenagers might have a few blind spots. They tend to underestimate the risks or simply miss the warning signs that make experienced drivers slow down. 

On top of that, teenagers are also more prone than adults to make critical errors that can lead to accidents or have serious consequences – another worrisome tendency. If you’d ask us or any other parent, not wearing a seat belt while driving is among those mistakes. 

In fact, the CDC’s teen drivers and passengers data shows that among individuals aged 16–19 who were involved in fatal car crashes in 2020, more than 56% of teen drivers and passengers were not wearing seat belts at the time of the accident. 

Another major challenge is distraction, which can negatively affect the performance of anyone on the road, let alone inexperienced teen drivers. Among U.S. high school students who drove in 2019, about 39% engaged in texting or sending an email while driving at least once in the last 30 days. 

Now that you know more about the challenge, let’s look at how to support your teens behind the wheel. 

2. Set an Example as a Parent

People often learn through observation. So, if you want your children to adopt a certain behavior, such as reading or acts of kindness, you should first do it yourself. 

The same goes for driving. You are the number one reference point for your teenagers. If you drive safely, they are more likely to develop the same habit. And if you tend to speed on the road, guess what – your teenage drivers might do the same. 

So, while driving your family car, try to set an example of a cautious, responsible driver who follows the rules and expects the same from others. 

3. Develop a Positive Attitude Towards Learning to Drive

Before becoming proficient drivers, your teenagers must gain experience and learn from their mistakes. We’ve all been there at some point, either as teenagers or adults. So try to set realistic expectations for your teens and let them know that it's okay to make mistakes as long as they learn from them. 

When necessary, don’t hesitate to provide constructive feedback and praise their efforts, progress, and responsible driving behaviors. This would make your teen feel comfortable approaching you with any questions or concerns they may have.

4. Communication Is Key

Let's talk about the secret sauce to supporting your teen behind the wheel – communication. And no, we're not talking about turning into a backseat driver who yells “Watch out!” or “Slow down!” every five seconds. 

We mean those real, genuine conversations that tackle the nitty-gritty of driving risks and consequences, such as texting while driving or zipping around like a race car driver. And while you're at it, set some clear expectations and rules for their driving adventures. Let them know that breaking curfew or turning the car into a party bus is a definite no-go. 

But remember, it's not all about you talking – it's about active listening too. Address their concerns and fears, whether it's parallel parking or encountering a broke down car in the middle of the highway. 

5. Technology Can Save the Day

In this digital age, we have an array of technological marvels at our disposal, and why not put them to good use when it comes to supporting your teen drivers? The driving safety apps are like having your own personal driving coach, minus the whistle and clipboard. 

These apps are designed to help you keep an eye on their driving habits and take steps to avoid certain behaviors that could lead to car accidents. It won’t be a surprise that they typically come with built-in features that automatically activate or start functioning, such as location sharing, speed alerts, automatic crash response, etc. 

In some cases, driving safety apps can even connect to your smartphone and send notifications whenever teenagers violate driving rules. 

If you are worried about privacy, like many of us do, the good news is that most driving safety apps offer customizable privacy settings. You can choose the level of monitoring and information you feel comfortable with, like location tracking or specific driving behavior alerts. 

We advise finding the right balance that suits you and your kids. That means you need to have an open conversation with your teen about using these apps. Maybe even discuss the reasons behind it, emphasizing that it's not about being a helicopter parent but rather an extra layer of support for their safety.

6. Manage the Peer Influence 

Peer influence is no joke, especially for a teenager trying to fit into the social circle. When it comes to driving, peer influence can encourage risky habits and lead to serious consequences. As a parent, start by openly discussing the importance of responsible driver behavior with your teen. Remind them that being a good driver means avoiding distractions, refraining from risky behaviors, and speaking up if they feel unsafe. 

Encourage assertiveness and empower your teen to make safe choices as a driver or passenger, even if it means going against the crowd. It's all about building their confidence to say, "Hey, let's buckle up" or "Let's find another ride if the driver isn't sober." In the long run, you can help your teens make responsible decisions while still enjoying their social lives. 

Final Thoughts

Once your teen starts their journey behind the wheel, prepare for a wild rollercoaster ride of emotions. You will jump for excitement, bite your nails, and even reach for the tissue box. But with the right strategies and a bit of patience, you can navigate this challenge alongside your family. Consider this blog as a helpful resource to kickstart your journey.