When parents understand the risk factors involved in letting 16-year-olds get behind the wheel, they can act to improve the situation for their own children.
Don’t rely solely on driver education
High school driver education may be the most convenient way to learn driving skills, but it doesn’t always produce safer drivers. Parents also should set good examples when they drive while reinforcing the lessons their teens learned in drivers ed.
Restrict night driving
Most nighttime fatal crashes among young drivers occur between 9 p.m. and midnight, so you can reduce their risk of a crash by restricting nighttime driving after 9 p.m. The problem isn’t just that late-night driving requires more skill. Outings late at night tend to be recreational. In these circumstances, even teens who usually follow all the rules can easily be distracted or encouraged to take risks.
Teen passengers in a vehicle can distract a beginning driver and/or lead to greater risk-taking. Because young drivers often transport their friends, there’s a teen passenger problem as well as a teen driver problem. In 2003, 59 percent of teenage passenger deaths occurred in vehicles driven by another teenager. While night driving with passengers is particularly lethal, many fatal crashes with teen passengers occur during the day. The best policy is to restrict teen passengers, especially multiple teens, all the time.
Supervise practice driving
Take an active role in helping your teenager learn how to drive. Plan a series of practice sessions in a wide variety of situations, including night driving. Give beginners time to work up to challenges like driving in heavy traffic or on the freeway. Supervised practice should be spread over at least six months and continue even after a teenager graduates from a learner’s permit to a restricted or full license.
Remember you are a role model
New drivers learn a lot by example, so practice safe driving. Teens who have crashes and violations often have parents with poor driving records.
Require safety belt use
Don’t assume that seat belt use when you’re in the car with your 16-year-old means belts will be used all the time, especially when your child is out with peers. Remember that belt use is lower among teenagers than older people. Insist on belts all the time.
Prohibit driving after drinking
Make it clear that it’s illegal and highly dangerous for a teenager to drive after drinking alcohol or using any other drug. While alcohol isn’t a factor in most crashes of 16-year-old drivers, even small amounts of alcohol will impair teens.
Choose vehicles for safety, not image
Teenagers should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of a crash and offer protection in case they do crash. For example, small cars don’t offer the best protection in a crash. Avoid cars with performance images that might encourage speeding. Also, be mindful that certain vehicles with a higher center of gravity may be more prone to roll over.
(Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 2003; other sources credited within article).