During the pandemic, many teens have had to make changes in their plans to get their driver’s license. With some driving schools closed due to COVID-19, more parents took over the responsibility of providing training. One thing that has not changed is that motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for teens 15-to-19 years old in the U.S. and in Texas. And it is not just the teen drivers at risk, it is also their passengers and younger teens, who are not even driving yet, that are at risk. Driver inexperience is one of the main reasons that teens are more likely to be in a crash. Setting guidelines and rules, parents can help make their teens safer drivers. Parents have more influence over their teens than they may think.
A survey conducted by State Farm Insurance showed that nearly nine out of 10 teens admitted to engaging in at least one cellphone behavior while driving. Two-thirds of teens said they program a navigation app while driving. Slightly less than half said they read text messages or talk on a hand-held phone when behind the wheel. Despite teens acknowledging that these activities can be distracting, they still use their phones while driving.
The survey also pointed out that teens whose parents use cellphones while driving were significantly more likely to engage in each phone activity.
Here is a list from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
• Remind your teen driver that driving is a privilege, not a right. If they aren’t following the rules of the road, they don’t get to have the keys to the car.
• Talk to your teen driver about driving laws. If they can’t follow the law, they can’t drive the car. You could save their life.
• Talking to your child about the importance of safe driving habits may feel tiresome for both parent and teen at times but keep working at it. They are listening and they depend on you to set and enforce the rules.
• Practice constant communication about safe driving skills. Self-reported surveys show that teens with parents who set and enforce firm rules for driving typically engage in less risky driving behaviors and are involved in fewer crashes. Don’t look at the conversation as nagging or bothersome — your teen is counting on you to not only set a good example, but to enforce the rules.
• Be a good role model for your teen driver and set an example with your own safe driving habits.
Talk to your teen about safe cell phone use while in the car. Encourage them to stow their phones while driving, designate a texter, or to pull over before answering phone calls or responding to text messages.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Nutrition Education Associate, Sharon Mitchiner, Galveston County, reminds parents to talk to their teens about staying safe on the road. Remember, one of the most important safety features for your teen driver is YOU.