If you’re anything like most parents, you’re a little nervous at the thought of your teen hitting the open road. The good news is that there are many ways to improve their safety as young drivers. Here are just a few tips for helping your teen navigate their newfound independence.

Take Away the Tech

This might sound like obvious advice, but texting and driving is still one of the most common causes of car accidents. Your teen needs to realize that they won’t be the exception to texting fatalities. The same thing applies to calls, tweets, Snapchats, Facetimes and Instagram. Whatever the app or message, let your children know that their lives matter more than that quick reply.

Unless they’re safely parked or pulled over to the side of the road, your teen shouldn’t be using their phone behind the wheel at all. If you wouldn’t want your child doing it while they drive, you shouldn’t do it either. Start their education on the importance of staying off your devices while operating a vehicle early by setting a good example from the beginning. For example, make a point of having the passengers look up directions, help navigate, or send messages. If you’re the only adult in the vehicle, pull over or safely park before accessing your device. Investing in and being familiar with hands-free GPS features for your devices and vehicles can also help you lessen the technology temptation.

Take Advantage of Safety Features

If your teen’s vehicle offers safety features like rear view cameras or electronic stability control, make sure that they know how to use them. Being able to see the cars behind them might prevent a number of driveway and parking lot accidents. At the same time, however, your teen should also know how to park and pull out of parking spots without remote monitoring systems. You don’t want them to be helpless if these features go on the fritz during an outing.

Practice Defensive Driving

It’s a common mistake to assume that other drivers are being just as careful as you are. Your teen needs to understand that they can follow all of the rules of the road but still get into an accident because of someone else’s inattention or incompetence. The only way to combat this risk is with vigilant, defensive driving that always accounts for things like blind spots and missed turn signals. Teaching your child to drive while staying observant and aware of what’s going on around them can help them stay confident and safe behind the wheel.

Prepare for Disaster

No one likes to think about their teen getting into an accident, but the truth is that almost 300,000 young people aged 16-19 are injured in motor vehicle accidents every year. It’s best to prepare for this negative outcome rather than being blindsided if it happens. Make sure that your teen knows to take pictures and exchange insurance information at the scene of a wreck. Hopefully, they’ll never have to use this information but knowing what to do beforehand will help them stay calm and collected in that stressful situation. As the parent, be aware that you will need to contact your insurance company moving forward and may need to consult a personal injury attorney to help you get a settlement if the collision wasn’t their fault.

Making sure your child knows how much more important they are to you than any vehicle should be your number one priority through this process. Knowing what to do in the case of an accident is important but knowing they can call you for help and still be loved and accepted will encourage open communication and honesty during this time of newfound independence.

Learning how to drive is an important milestone for young adults. However, steps should be taken to ensure that this rite of passage has a happy ending and is treated with respect. Preparing your child properly for the privilege of operating a vehicle is a huge step toward keeping them safe on the road as a responsible driver.

By Erica Buteau

Change Agent. Daydream Believer. Maker. Creative. Likes love, peace and Jeeping. Dislikes winter, paper cuts and war. She/Her/Hers.

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