The Importance of Driving Safety
A teenager with a car is one of those mixed blessings of parenthood: you may no longer be the on-duty taxi, but you'll likely replace drive time with a lot of fretting. There's good reason to worry. A dangerous combination of little behind-the-wheel experience plus a tendency to take risks and be easily distracted makes teens four times as likely to crash as drivers 20 and older; 16-year-olds are most vulnerable.
How to Teach Driving Basics
With stakes likes these, it's good to know there are steps you can take to keep your kids safer on the road. Experts warn parents not to rely on driver ed alone, but to take an active role in teaching skills over several months. Focus on one skill at a time, like parking or braking.
After your new driver is comfortable in an empty parking lot, progress to quiet streets, then typical destinations like school or the grocery store, and eventually on to highways.
Remember to cover basic operational stuff, like how to fill the car with gas, check the oil and tire pressure, locate the spare, and read a map.
Other Tips for Peace of Mind
Research shows that graduated licensing laws that target trouble spots such as night driving and driving with a gang of friends in the car are effective at cutting down on crashes. Even if your state doesn't have such a system, you can implement your own rules to the same effect.
While you're at it, consider having your teen sign a safe driver contract, which has the benefit of clarifying both expectations and consequences.
Some parents are turning to on-board devices that let them monitor driving speed and seat belt use.
"These show promise for the most problematic time -- when a teen first begins driving without a parent," says Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but it's important to present these devices as mentors and feedback givers, not monitors.