Common driving myths, busted.
“Because my teen is an honor student, he/she will be a safe driver.”
Driving is a complex psychomotor skill that requires long-term development and effort, much like mastering tennis or playing the piano. Native intelligence, while helpful, does not indicate how safe a driver will be. What does? Experience and attitude. In particular, adopting the attitude that driving is a privilege, not a right, helps your teen make smart choices behind the wheel.
“My teen understands the consequences of his/her actions.”
Although your teen may appear to be close to adulthood, in terms of brain development, he or she is actually closer to being a child. Studies from the NIH and other medical researchers have demonstrated that the part of the brain that assesses risks and correlates actions and consequences is not fully developed until the mid 20’s. Therefore, although your teen may acknowledge that driving too fast puts him or her at more risk for an accident, he or she may not make that same correlation when behind the wheel. That’s why positive incentive works best. See the Parent Teen Contract for how to use positive incentive to help increase your teen’s odds for survival on the road.
“Alcohol is the leading cause of car accidents among teenagers.”
More than 50% of parents polled believe this statement is true. However, only approximately 25% of teen car accidents are related to drinking and driving. What are the most common causes of teen driving accidents? Inexperience, distractions and speed. What can you do to address these issues? Increase the quantity and variety of driving experience your teen has, sign the Parent Teen Contract and make sure your teen has positive incentives to remain accident and ticket free. If you want help ensuring that your teen has the necessary experience behind the wheel, our coaches are here to help.
“My teen is ready to drive independently because he/she has passed the driving test and has a junior/probationary license.”
Would you believe that your teen was ready to play on a professional soccer team because his team won the state championship? Just as your teen would not be ready for this kind of challenge even though he or she has cleared a significant hurdle, your teen in is not necessarily ready to drive alone once he or she has passed the junior license test. Keep in mind that the DMV/MVC driving test takes only about 10 minutes to complete and is in no way an indication of whether or not your teen has the skills, attitude and experience to be a safe driver.
Naturally teens want the car keys right away and the associated freedom. Understandably you are tired of being a chauffeur. But just as you are expecting your teen to make the right choices behind the wheel, you have to make the right choices as far as what conditions and situations your teen is ready to handle and where he or she needs more experience and practice. It takes 1-2 years of driving experience, depending on miles driven, to see crash probability decline significantly. By all means, give them the experience they need, but not necessarily on their own.
“I can bend the rules and handle a few distractions when I drive because I am an experienced driver, but my teen will follow traffic laws and remain focused on the road at all times.”
Multiple studies have shown that teen driving habits (and corresponding accident and citations rates) mirror the driving habits they see, not hear, from their parents. Research shows that teens have a disconnect between how they view themselves as drivers and their actual driving habits. Nine out of ten teens rate themselves as safe drivers, yet the majority engage in risky driving behavior including cell phone use, speeding and eating or drinking while the car is moving. These findings reveal that teens are unable to appreciate how dangerous these driving behaviors are because they see their parents exhibit the same behavior with no negative consequences. What should you do? Change your own driving habits for good. Remember that anything that takes your attention away from the road, even for a second, is unsafe. Studies show that most accidents could have been be avoided if the driver had reacted only 1-2 seconds faster. Also, acknowledge your own bad habits to your teen and agree to work on them as an example to your teen that you value safe driving.