Keeping your teen safe
In the Beginning…
We recommend that StreetSafe coaches be the first to introduce your teen to the basics of driving and to high-pressure situations such as highways and narrow city streets. Why? Having a professional driving instructor introduce your teen to the driving experience:
- takes the burden and stress off of parents when teen drivers are the most inexperienced and inconsistent
- provides the teen with a calm, positive introduction to driving – no emotional outbursts or panic reactions
- is safer than using parents’ cars because StreetSafe cars have passenger side brakes
- ensures that teens learn correct driving habits from the onset instead of adopting some of mom and dad’s habits that must be altered later
When you are acting as “coach,” here are some things to keep in mind:
- You are your teen’s role model. If you have slipped into some unsafe driving habits, change them now. If you are not sure how you rate as a driver, we can help you identify any areas where improvement is needed and give you the latest driving techniques to make sure you and your teen are both safe, smart drivers. Contact us if you are interested in this option.
- Practice only with you and your teen in the car. Other passengers add stress and distraction to the learning environment.
- When driving with your teen, do not eat, drink, listen to the radio or answer the cell phone unless the car is stopped. You should be as attentive to the driving situation as you want your teen to be.
- Practice only when you and your teen are well rested and not rushed.
- Since patience is sometimes in short supply for parents with a new driver, keep your driving practice to an hour or less initially.
- Remember that every new driver learns differently and at a different pace. Be flexible with your plans and patient with your teen’s progress. While practicing, do not bring up other topics or family matters. Wait until you get to your destination to discuss anything but driving issues.
- Begin in low volume, low risk driving areas. Use empty parking lots and remote roads with wide shoulders first, then progress to quiet neighborhood streets.
- Make sure your teen comes to a full stop at lights and stop signs. Rolling stops are not only illegal, but dangerous – especially for a new driver. To time the full stop you can either spell S-T-O-P or count to 4 as a rule of thumb.
- Use positive reinforcement as much as possible. Commend your teen for making smart decisions (i.e. waiting an extra few seconds to be sure the road is clear before turning) and use encouragement instead of criticism when he or she makes mistakes, “The next time you see a yellow light, use more caution and begin to brake earlier.”
Gradual Progression is Essential
Only after your teen is comfortable in routine driving situations and has the basics mastered (without your prompting) should you move to more heavily traveled roads and finally highways and city driving.
As your teen becomes more comfortable behind the wheel, expose him or her to inclement weather situations whenever possible. That way, you can discuss the changes that should be made in those driving situations versus typical driving scenarios.
Just because your teen has had a learners permit for 6 months or has reached a certain age does not mean he or she is ready for a junior/probationary license. We recommend that a teen keep his or her learner’s permit for a full 12 months (permits can also be extended). This gives teens more time to practice with an adult in the car to be sure they have the experience they need to stay safe on the road. Once teens have a junior/probationary license, they tend to put a lot of pressure on parents to “get the keys” as often as possible. However, the first year after obtaining a license is the most dangerous time of a teen’s life. Reduce the odds of your teen becoming a statistic by waiting as long as possible to get a junior/probationary license. Be sure to evaluate his or her behavior, attitude and understanding of the driving responsibility before allowing your teen to take his or her driving test.
As new drivers become more relaxed and confident, they tend to stop analyzing the driving situation, therefore putting themselves in danger. Remind your teen that driving is a serious responsibility that requires continuous thought and attention and is not be taken lightly, no matter how long they have been driving.
Teens who are responsible for a component of their driving privilege have more incentive to be safe, responsible drivers. Some suggestions for assigning responsibility include having your teen pay for:
- part or all of a monthly car payment
- a portion of the car insurance
- speeding or parking tickets
- vehicle damage
Other ways to give your teen a stake in his or her driving privilege include an obligation to:
- Keep the car clean
- Schedule and follow regular car maintenance
- Ensure tires are properly inflated and fluids are sufficient
- Require some driving for charitable duties (taking an elderly neighbor or relative on errands or to the doctor)
Failure to fulfill any of these responsibilities should have a consequence specified in the Parent-Teen Contract.
The Driving Log
If you can, it’s best to schedule a regular time for driving each day or week. Like anything, if driving practice is on the calendar at a set date and time, it’s more likely to happen. Once your teen has mastered the basics, you can add different times to vary the driving scenario. You can use the driving log to keep track of your teen’s driving time and progress.
Setting Rules -The Parent-Teen Contract
Studies show that teens with parents who set strict limits during the first year of driving have a significantly lower incidence of crashes. Before your teen gets his or her junior/probationary license, adapt the Parent Teen contract to suit your needs, discuss it in detail with your teen and sign it together. The specifics in the contract are StreetSafe recommendations.
Set clear and specific rules for driving. As described in the contract, be sure to specify rules about:
- Cell phone use
- Which cars your teen can use
- Where your teen can drive
- Time restrictions for nighttime driving
- With whom your teen can drive
- Drug and alcohol use and driving
Be sure you are prepared to follow through with the consequences set forth in the agreement.