Parenting is subjective. We often wonder if we’re making the right choices, allowing the right amount of freedoms, being consistent enough, plain and simple, raising good kids.
There are no clear guidelines, except one.
Safety trumps everything else when it comes to situations that put a child at risk for injury or, worse, death. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of child and adolescent death. So in the car, the choice is easy. There’s one question to ask, is this safe? It’s the parent’s responsibility. Their lives are in our hands and we had better do the best we can. And if we don’t know, find out.
- Follow your state’s Graduated Driver Licensing provisions. These provisions protect newly licensed teen drivers by keeping them out of high-risk driving situations (like distracted driving by limited the number of peers they can have with them and banning cell phone use while driving) until they have gained driving experience in lower-risk conditions.
- Lead by example. Wear your seat belt for every trip, refrain from cell phone use while driving and follow other traffic rules like the speed limit.
- Control the keys. When your teen has to ask you to have the car, it creates opportunities to constructively remind him to buckle up and to refrain from cell phone use while driving. Your teen also is incentivized to share where she’s going, who she’ll be with and when she will be back. (Plus, studies show teens drive safer when it’s someone else’s car.)
- Continue to being in the car when your teen is driving.
- Be the scapegoat. Be the reason your teen says “no” or leaves a dangerous situation. Discuss what these situations might be, for instance a party with drinking.
The best way to have a safe teen driver who buckles up is to be a safe driver who buckles up and doesn’t participate in distracted driving.
Keeping your kids safe is your most important job as a parent and driving is the most dangerous activity they engage in. So from conception forward, be safe and teach safe in the car.