Magazine article Work & Family Life

On the Road with a Safer Teenage Driver

Magazine article Work & Family Life

On the Road with a Safer Teenage Driver

Article excerpt

Many teens take Driver's Ed, but these courses "are not effective in creating safe drivers and decreasing crash risk," according to a study reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics in the journal Pediatrics. Other studies have found that high school driver's education programs encourage the early licensing of the youngest, most dangerous drivers.

Since inexperience is the single biggest reason for both fatal and nonfatal crashes involving teenage drivers, a parent's role is crucial. The best teaching, of course, is by your own good example. If your children have been observing a careful, considerate driver over the years, they are ahead of the game. If not, it's time to change your ways. And when you find yourself sitting in the passenger seat with your teenage son or daughter behind the wheel, here are some potentially lifesaving tips:

* Know the rules. Before any driving lessons, both you and your teen should read your state's driving manual from cover to cover.

* Start with 15-20 minute practice sessions. Stop if your teen gets upset or you get testy. Empty parking lots are a good place to begin. Avoid heavy traffic, bad weather or night driving until you both feel ready.

* Point out what other drivers are doing. Pay attention to drivers who are tailgating, changing lanes without signaling or talking on cell phones. Comment on those who are doing things right. Make a game of spotting the good, the bad and the idiots.

* Emphasize space - the fatal frontier. Since teens are three times as likely as adults to be involved in rear-end collisions, it's vital that your child tune in to the "safety zone" between cars and how that distance varies with speed and weather.

* Teach about blind spots. A good way is to walk completely around a parked car while the new driver tries to follow you in the mirrors. There's nothing like not seeing someone to make the point of hidden dangers.

* Give directions that cannot be confusing. Say WHERE to do something before you say WHAT to do: When you get to the next corner, turn right. Remove the word right from your vocabulary, except for turns. Say correct, so there's no confusion about when you mean to go right. And be explicit about directions: Stop before you turn.

* Give constructive feedback. For example: I'd feel better if you gave that car a little more room will be better received than How many times do I have to tell you to stop tailgating! …

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