It’s a New Year and, if you’re a parent of a 16 year-old, you’ll no doubt be conscious of the fact that your daughter or son will be able to start driving this year. Other than actually moving out, driving is one of the great leaps of independence that children enjoy as they mature. Independence that began on their first day of kindergarten.
But for too many parents, the independence offered by being allowed to drive has ended in the worst tragedy any parent can experience, the loss of their children. Automobile accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers, accounting for over one-third of all teenage deaths.
Tragedy strikes where it may, but you can help your children to start driving with good habits and keep them safer on the road. And that begins with setting ground rules for driving even before they get behind the wheel.
1. SEAT BELTS ALWAYS
Even if you’ve made seat belts mandatory all of their lives, teenagers can fall out of good habits quickly and easily. You can’t stress enough about the importance of wearing seat belts for them and any passengers in the vehicle. While many cars will sound a warning tone if front seat occupants don’t buckle up, relatively few do so for back seat passengers. The rule should be that the vehicle doesn’t start moving until everyone’s seat belt is securely in place.
2. NO HAND-HELD DEVICES
If they take a smartphone in the car with them, they should always connect it to the vehicle’s Bluetooth-enabled system. If the vehicle doesn’t allow the hands-free use of smartphones, then they should not be used while the car is driving. That said, the best policy is to not use mobile devices while in the car.
3. DON’T OVERCROWD
In addition to smartphones, driving with friends can be a major distraction. While they won’t have the opportunity to do so for at least a little while, due to the staged requirements for earning a full driver’s license, it doesn’t hurt to stress the importance of maintaining control of all occupants in the vehicle – for your children’s safety at that of their friends.
It’s All About Safety. Look at it this way: if you teach your children to be safe drivers, they will automatically be good drivers. While you may be quite capable of teaching them how to drive properly, don’t be afraid to consider a professional driving course to make sure they get as much safety training as possible.