Teen drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash than an adult, found a study by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Companies. Parents can do several things to help keep their teenagers safe behind the wheel. Here are a few teen driver safety tips:
- Coach your son or daughter. Talk openly and frankly with your teenager in order to determine his or her attitude about being behind the wheel. Work with your teen to set ground rules, such as the number of people allowed in the car, where the car may be taken, and curfew.
- Make sure you know the rules of the road. Some states have more restrictive rules for underage drivers. Most have curfews that prohibit drivers under the age of 18 from operating a vehicle between certain nighttime hours. Some will waive these restrictions after the teen has had his/her license for a specified time. Some prohibit underage drivers from having other minors as passengers. And many restrict or prohibit the use of cell phones while driving. In California, for example, adults can use a mobile phone with a hands-free device, while underage drivers cannot use a phone at all while operating a vehicle.
- Understand the real hazards facing teen drivers. Contrary to popular belief, most serious accidents involving teens were not caused by aggressive driving, risk-taking or even drowsiness. Seventy-five percent of accidents studied by The Children’s Hospital and State Farm involved a “critical error” in judgment that led up to the crash. The study identified the three most common such errors as lack of scanning needed to detect and respond to hazards, going too fast for road conditions, and being distracted.
- Use emergency road service. If you do not belong to a motor club, consider joining one that provides 24-hour emergency road service. That way, teenagers may call for help at any time if they need gas, need a jump-start, are locked out or need a tire changed. You can also arrange with the motor club to provide service for your teen if they are in a friend’s car.
- Have an open discussion about driving under the influence. While no one wants to think about the possibility of their teenager drinking and driving — or being in a car with an impaired friend at the wheel — we need to be realistic. History has shown that teenagers will experiment with alcohol. You should make it clear to your teen that driving after drinking is not acceptable. However, if they ever do drink, or are in a car with someone else who is impaired, make it clear to your teens that they can call you at any time of the day or night and that you will come to get them — no questions asked.
Two other effective, though more costly, things you can do are:
- Install a “governor.” Many vehicles — school buses and certain types of delivery vehicles are good examples — have a “governor” installed in them that restricts the amount of fuel that can be injected, thus preventing the vehicle from being driven over a certain speed. A governor in your teen’s car may help keep him or her within the speed limits.
- Install a global positioning system (GPS) in your teen’s car. You can program it to let you know where your teenager is driving at any time. With the GPS, you can set a radius of operation and the GPS will notify you if your teen has taken the car outside of that radius. It can even alert you when the speed limit is being exceeded.
A GPS can also notify you if the car is being kept out past an agreed-upon curfew. This may seem like a rather extreme measure; use of a GPS may best serve those parents who have a reason to mistrust their teenager.
It is important for you — and your son or daughter — to remember that, yes, your auto insurance rates will go up, but they will come down after he or she gains a couple years of driving experience. However, your rates will really go up if your teenager has tickets or gets into accidents.