Simple Steps to a Safe Teen Driver
If I was really on top of things, the moment Bug hit 15 and a half I’d have taken him to take his test to obtain his temporary driver’s permit. But I’m not on top of things and to be perfectly honest, giving him space behind the wheel of the family car scares the daylights out of me. Maybe it’s my fear of him driving that’s kept me out of the DMV or maybe I really am just behind in taking care of these growing up milestones.
On one hand I’m overjoyed that there will be another driver in the house, thus giving me (the primary chauffeur) a break from constant taxiing. On the other hand, I’m worried for his safety on the road, not because I believe he would be a bad driver necessarily but because of all the other bad drivers out there and the multitude of distractions on the road. I’m also acutely aware that Bug has one additional road hazard that I didn’t as a teenage driver and that’s a cell phone.
While I know that I can’t completely crash proof my teenager, there are a number of things I’m doing to set the safety wheels in motion long before he gets his own license to drive.
Scare Tactics – That’s right, I’m scaring the snot out of the boy. I can’t protect him if I don’t talk to him and tell him the facts about distracted driving. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the cell phone that distracts him either; friends in the car or even playing with the radio can distract a teen enough to cause an accident. However, statistics show that a teen distracted by texting with a cell phone is just as impaired as someone who is driving drunk. A scary thought, right? I mean you wouldn’t let a drunk person drive so why a teen with a phone? He needs facts and I plan on giving him every ugly, scary and eerie one I can find.
Party on Wheels – I mentioned that having friends in the car can be dangerous for teen drivers, but do you know how dangerous? Friends acting wild, loud, teasing and even outright physically distracting the driver is a recipe for disaster. I don’t want to tell my son that he can’t ever have a friend in the car, but I do want to limit the number of friends he has in the car at any one time. Plus, our state actually has restrictions on the number of non-family members a teen can have in the car as do many states now and I plan on enforcing the state rules with an addition of a few of my own.
Positive Reinforcement – I’m currently looking at ways to reinforce the rules and offer an incentive to my son for being a safe and responsible driver. Many insurance companies such as State Farm and AllState provide “contracts” for parents and teens to sign to encourage teens to be safe. These contracts can shave money off of the cost of adding your teen to your car insurance. I’m looking at creating my own contract with more personalized incentives that will work for our family.
Mobile Safety – One of the things I’ve been hearing more and more about is the number of apps for smart phones. These apps can do everything from keep the phone to being answered while the car is in motion (with help from GPS activation), preventing texts and emails from being opened, to speaking texts and emails for the driver. While all of these sound great on the surface and I applaud the efforts, there are still a large number of families not providing their teens with smart phones, our family included but should we ever give our teen a smart phone, driving safety apps such as these will be on my list to add to his phone. Until then, he'll have to leave his phone completely off until he gets to where he is going.
I'm not even going to pretend that I have all the answers on this one, as far as I'm concerned, I'm heading in to deep, murky water without a map or guide. All I can do is teach him the safe way to drive, lay down the rules, hope that he follows them and pray for his safety when he is finally driving on his own.
Do you have a teen on the road or will soon have one behind the wheel of a car? What are your tips for keeping them safe while driving?