Know Your ‘Passenger Rights’ in the Car

Everyone on the road, no matter what seat they’re in, has the right to stay safe.

March 29, 2019

When teaching your teen to drive you’re going to find yourself in the passenger seat much more often. Instead of just sitting there (and repeatedly stepping on an invisible brake pedal), you can teach your teen a valuable lesson: how to be a safe passenger in the car.

Though your kids grow up as passengers, they may not have given much thought to how their actions affect the driver. Since April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to point out how a passenger can cause or eliminate extra distractions in the car.

An easy way to teach this lesson is to explain that passengers have certain ‘rights’ they can use to stay safe and it’s important for your teen to learn them. Here are four ‘passenger rights’ your teen should know and how you can set this example.

  • Prevent distraction for the driver. Passengers can be an extra set of eyes in the car, and an extra pair of hands to handle distracting tasks. Teach your teen to embrace their job as a passenger and operate the radio, GPS and temperature changes in the vehicle. Your teen can also watch for signs, landmarks and traffic problems up ahead.
  • Speak up if you feel the driver is distracted or is doing something dangerous. Your teen may be new to driving, but it’s not hard to spot a risk behind the wheel. Your teen should feel empowered to speak up and ask their driver to stop texting, taking a call or doing anything else distracting.
  • Say no to any behavior that draws your driver’s attention away from the road. If passengers aren’t careful, they can be just as distracting as a ringing phone (it’s why we recommend your teen drive without young passengers when they first get a license). So show your teen how a responsible passenger should act and never needlessly take the driver’s attention off of the road.
  • Get home safely, and allow everyone else on the road to do the same. Just like drivers, passengers want to make it home safe after the drive. By embracing your ‘passenger rights’, you can teach your teen what to expect from others in the car and point out the many distractions facing drivers.

Everyone on the road, no matter what seat they’re in, has the right to stay safe. Teach your teen to avoid distractions as a driver and to help spot them as a passenger. The more you practice, the more they’ll get the message. Visit nsc.org/JustDrive to learn more.

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