If you’re the parent of a teen driver, you’re probably under a lot of pressure. Teens lack experience driving, texting is an ingrained habit they consider indispensible and, well, they’re teens. The fact that they’re teens is actually important for parents to understand. It’s not just that teens sometimes seem dead-set on doing just the opposite of what their parents tell them — it’s also that their brains haven’t fully developed. Until the mid-20s, human beings are just more likely to be impulsive and lack some ability to predict the consequences of their actions.
You’d like to teach your son or daughter to drive safely, but will they even listen? Yes. The good news is that parents demonstrably do have a real impact on their teens’ driving behavior.
The Governors Highway Safety Association published a study recently that showed that when parents actively set driving rules, and then supportively monitored their young people for compliance, teens are half as likely to get into a car accident overall. They’re also 50-percent more likely to wear seatbelts, 71-percent less prone to drive drunk, and around 30-percent better at avoiding distracted driving.
Yet teens’ seeming addiction to electronic communication, combined with their sense of invincibility, tend to combine into a dangerous mix. According to one study cited in the Huffington Post recently, 85 percent of teens agree that texting behind the wheel is dangerous — but that didn’t translate into avoiding doing so. Around 77 percent of the same teens said they believed they could do it safely.
It’s not just texting and talking on cellphones, either. As we discussed on this blog earlier this month, some teens are even taking cellphone self-portraits behind the wheel. Today, newer cars are being built with dashboard-mounted GPS devices and even Internet connections. Let’s not forget headphones and ear buds, or MP3 players that invite song reshuffling — all of these can cause distraction-related car accidents.
What’s that? You’ve installed an app on your teen’s phone that prevents its use in the car? Don’t count on that. Most can be disabled or evaded.
What is needed is clear communication and good role modeling. Sit down with your teen driver and discuss your expectations — including a zero-tolerance policy for electronics behind the wheel. Consider a written contract with consequences.
Thanksgiving is a time for family. Why not sit down for a talk?
Source: Huffington Post, “A Parent’s Plan For Curbing Distracted Driving,” Tim Hollister, Nov. 21, 2013