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During the last week of September, we observe Child Passenger Safety Week by encouraging drivers to understand the risks posed to young children in the car. According to NHTSA, car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13 and during this week we highlight the steps parents and caregivers can take to make sure their young children stay safe on the roads.
But during this time, parents cannot forget about the safety of their older children. Car crashes are the number one killer of teens, and even if they have transitioned from being a passenger to a driver, they need help and guidance to stay safe in the car.
In each case, parents serve a crucial role, but you have to be aware and informed to make a difference.
Take an active role
Your child once needed you to find, install and buckle them into the right car seat before each ride, but just because they have moved to the driver’s seat, your role is not over.
Though your teen may be more capable than a toddler or infant, they still lack the years of experience you have behind the wheel. As the number one influence on your teen’s driving habits, you can share your knowledge, offer tips and teach your teen how to be a responsible road user.
By taking an active role in your teen’s driving education, you can drive home the importance of staying safe on every trip. You can use our New Driver Deal and Pointers for Parents to set rules and expectations for your teen, create lessons and ensure your teen stays accountable to the agreement you set. The more you show your teen that you care about their development as a driver, the more invested they will be in learning how to drive the right way: safely.
Set a good example
Teens are also similar to young kids in how they pick up habits from adults. From the very moment you turn their car seat around to face forward, your child is watching you. If you are an aggressive, distracted or fatigued driver, your child will grow up thinking not only is it okay but it is perfectly normal to drive this way.
‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ doesn’t work in this situation, as kids pick up these habits without even thinking about it. So the best thing you can do as your child grows up in the back seat is to drive the way you would want them to drive. Put your phone away, get into the right headspace and never drive while impaired, whether from substances or a lack of sleep. This applies even after your teen gets a license, since they’ll still learn from you and model their driving behaviors after yours.
Protect your child
Child Passenger Safety Week is all about protecting those most precious to us on the road and that shouldn’t change just because our precious passengers are suddenly old enough to drive. Make a commitment to keeping your child safe long after they have grown out of their car and booster seats and you’ll see that same commitment in them as they learn to drive.
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.
The National Safety Council is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization.