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Road safety can be complicated, especially for new teen drivers.
Curfews, passenger restrictions and distractions may overwhelm your teen, on top of the traditional ‘rules of the road’ they’re learning for the first time. So to celebrate Global Youth Traffic Safety Month during May, we’d like you to step back and focus on what’s most important: your teen’s safety.
Make it simple
Talking about risky driving behaviors is important, of course, but your teen also needs to learn how to recognize what is and isn’t dangerous on their own. One way to start this is to frame your teen’s choices behind the wheel in terms or how those choices will affect their safety.
Your teen might think, for example, that having a teen passenger in the car or quickly sending a text at a stoplight isn’t that big a deal, and it’s easy to see why. Even adult drivers have a talent for justifying their dangerous behaviors. How often have we thought, ‘It’s okay that I’m speeding because I’m going with the flow of traffic,’ or ‘I can send this one text because I’m a good driver’?
Imagine trying to explain these excuses to your teen: how could you expect him or her not to text behind the wheel if you say it is okay in certain situations? Excuses and exceptions like these make safety complicated, when it should be simple. Fortunately, you can clarify things with a quick test.
If your teen ever considers a potentially dangerous driving activity, teach them to ask:
If the answer is yes, it’s most likely not worth it.
This test makes complicated situations much simpler, which is crucial for teens still getting experience on the road. Instead of having to understand the science behind how hands-free phone calls can distract you behind the wheel, for example, your teen can just ask themselves if making such a call would take their mind off of the road and the answer is clear. After your teen gets a license and transitions to driving alone, this skill will be much more important and help them avoid dangerous decisions.
Set the example
In order for this test to work, however, you have to use it yourself. So try out this test when you drive and get rid of any lingering excuses you’re using. You might be surprised by the risky choices you’ve become accustomed to over decades of driving.
We can never repeat this enough: you have to set a good example for your teen to follow. Because if your teen learns to make exceptions for themselves behind the wheel – whether it’s for texting, speeding or any other similar habit – their choices will only increase their crash risk and set them up for a lifetime of dangerous driving.
DriveitHOME™ is an initiative of the National Safety Council, designed by and for parents of newly licensed teen drivers. DriveitHOME™ offers free resources parents can use to help their teen build experience to become safer drivers.
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