Driving and riding with other teen drivers is perhaps the deadliest risk your child may ever face. In fact, teens are at much greater risk than toddlers, so don’t let your guard down when they “graduate” into just a seat belt. The IIHS has some staggering numbers on teenage drivers.
There are some common sense precautions for parents:
1) No seatbelt, no car. Many teens don’t have the same sense of risk or mortality as their parents. Some just don’t get it at all. If they don’t listen to reason about having all occupants wear seat belts, then they should lose access to the keys.
2) Consider letting your teen drive a safer car if one is available. It’s not an easy choice to let them take a newer car that has hands-free cellphone connectivity and the latest crash avoidance features. On the other hand, the cost and hassle of a repair is trivial compared to what you spend on a child through college age. Letting them drive the clunkiest old beater available is not the safest option, unless it’s the only option.
3) Consider a written driving “agreement” (courtesy of the CDC) with all your expectations, before letting them take the car. For example, NO touching the phone at all while driving, NO exceptions. Also consider an app or device to monitor your teen driver. Some newer cars may have teen driving modes included. Know where and when they go and how fast they are going there!
4) Coach them on using Maps or other navigation tools. Kids are usually a lot more reliant upon these tools than their parents. It seems self-explanatory, but we’ve all experienced directions that come too soon or too late and those times the phone disconnects or the nav software can’t get a signal. For new drivers, this can be far more confusing. Help them learn to be aware of the next step in advance and to pull over safely if they need to reset or resume the route guidance.
5) Make them install Uber or Lyft on their phone with your payment method. Did they go to a party with alcohol or marijuana or who knows what else? Maybe they just stayed so late that they are falling asleep? Perhaps the roads are unfamiliar, especially in the darkness on the way home. Quite possibly they don’t feel comfortable riding with another teen driver who is impaired, but fear that calling you will be worse. Give them another option for a paid way home, no questions asked, even if they know to call you for a pickup. It’s far better than having to wake up in the middle of the night to make a trip to the hospital!