Teen Drivers and What Parents Need to Know

teentalkingdrivingDid you know 56% of teens admit to talking on the phone while driving?

Did you know 16-year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age?

“Can I drive?” may not be a phrase you are ready to hear when your teenager is old enough to get his or her driver’s permit. In fact, it may be difficult to come to terms with the fact that your child who was once buckled up in a car seat is now old enough to be behind the wheel. The reality is that your baby is no longer a baby anymore and is suddenly tasked with the big responsibility of being a driver, all while you are thrown from the driver’s seat to the passenger’s seat.

Learning how to adjust to this rite of passage is simultaneously exciting and scary for both of you. In order for a teen to successfully and safely learn how to drive, parents have to let go of the wheel and practice patience, trust and cooperation, according to Kim Estes, child safety expert and founder of Savvy Parents Safe Kids.

“Driving is one of the biggest risks and leaps parents encounter with teens and also requires the biggest amount of trust from parents,” she says. “Collaboration, communication and taking the criticism down about 10 notches can help the parent-teen relationship during this time.”

Prepping Your Child and Yourself

It is likely your teen has access to a driver’s education course within the community or at school. However, driving is a hands-on activity and your child needs your guidance. Before backing out of the driveway, have a discussion with your teen about her concerns about driving, recommends Estes.

“When my daughter began driving, we talked ahead of time about what made her nervous, such as certain intersections or my tone when instructing her,” she says. “Once we were clear about fears and expectations ahead of time, it took some of the edge off for both of us.”

A review of the rules of the road may also help both of you prepare for daily cruises through the neighborhood. According to the All State Foundation, parents should begin talking about safe driving well before a teen applies for a driver’s permit. “Parents should begin a conversation by the junior high years and maintain an ongoing dialogue,” suggest the experts at All State. “Tee it up as a discussion, not a lecture.”

While reviewing your state’s road rules, such as speed limits, intersection protocols and phone usage guidelines, you have the opportunity to sharpen your own driving knowledge and educate your teen. Talk to your teen about driving situations while you are experiencing them, says Estes. “As you are about to change lanes, talk to your teen about the three things you should do before changing lanes,” she says.

Set an Example

Whether you realize it or not, your teen is watching your every move. Set the example as a safe driver to not only educate your child but also improve your own driving abilities. “Don’t do things while driving that you don’t want your children to do, such as texting, driving aggressive or running yellow lights,” says Estes.

It may also help your teen learn if you encourage him or her to observe, offer suggestions and ask questions about your driving. Don’t be defensive during the process, though, advises Estes. “If your driving relationship with each other has more of a collaborative feel to it, the more likely your teen is to follow your lead, ask questions and hopefully take less driving risks,” she says.

Stay Calm

Even though driving with your teen may make you nervous or anxious, it’s important to calm your own emotions so you don’t inadvertently transfer those feelings to your child while she’s driving.

“Take a stress ball with you if you think you are going to be stressed,” suggests Estes. “Holding on to your seat or the dashboard with a death grip does nothing to instill calm or confidence in your teen driver.”

Keep criticism to a minimum, too. Instead of shouting “you are going too fast,” ask your teen open-ended questions, such as “Can you tell me what the posted speed limit is in this area?” A sharp or sarcastic tone may belittle your teen, who is most likely doing her best to obey the law and improve her skills.

If nervousness takes over, Estes suggests asking a trusted friend or family member to take your teen driving at first. “This helped me ease up a little since I knew it was not her actual first time behind the wheel,” she says.

If you are concerned about your teen’s ability to navigate complex intersections or highways while driving, take it slow. Take the road less traveled the first few times to help calm both of you.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens.


Teens, Driving and Texting: The Dangers They Need to Know

Distracted driving kills.  Whether it is drinking and driving or texting and driving, if you are not driving and paying attention to the road and your car, you are not only endangering yourself, you are a danger to others on the road.

AT&T has been committed to bring awareness and helping prevent distracted driving.

Below is a link to a video that AT&T shot last week during a teen safety fair in Washington D.C., sponsored by a DC TV station and the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) — a network of national associations and federal agencies focused on youth safety and health. (You may recall, last May AT&T announced a $1 million commitment in the fight against texting and driving. That commitment involves a contribution to NOYS to develop and train student ambassadors on anti-texting-while-driving education. The students then host summits on the topic within their schools and hometowns throughout the school year.)

As part of the D.C. teen safety fair, AT&T had a TWD Simulator on site to give teens a first-hand experience at just how much of a distraction texting and driving can be.  As you’ll see from the video, the simulator is a full-sized car. Kids get in the simulator, put on goggles and start driving, using a heads-up street display in their goggles. They then send a text message and the inevitable result is the kid crashes into a car or a pedestrian.

Link to TWD Simulator:  http://silo.mediasilo.com/weblink/FBF9900EF2686B78BA344B8D06D55ECC/22455/

Background on our “Txting While Driving … It Can Wait” campaign:

While distracted driving is an issue for all motorists, teenagers are particularly at risk.  Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, and the proliferation of distracted driving among teens is a huge challenge.

That’s why AT&T”s “Txting…It Can Wait” public awareness campaign is especially focused on educating teens about the risks of texting while driving and spreading the message that text messages can wait.  Not even red lights, professionals say, signal a “safe” time to text.

As part of its campaign, AT&T has developed a powerful documentary called “The Last Text” that examines the real world consequences of texting and driving.  Each of the eight individuals in the video — whose lives have been impacted tragically by texting while driving — volunteered their stories to help educate Americans — particularly youth — on the risks of texting behind the wheel.  The documentary can be viewed online on the AT&T “It Can Wait” website and on the AT&T YouTube page.

Texting is so dangerous because it takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds.  At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field completely blind.  Studies show a driver’s reaction time is doubled when reading or sending a text, and that motorists sending a text while driving are 23 more times likely to be in a crash.

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Parents Universal Resource Experts – Sue Scheff: Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving

What an important message for this time of the year, and truly, all year round.  Take the time to be an educated parent, have safer teens and potentially save a life.

Did you know that in 2008, nearly 12,000 drivers or motorcycle riders died in alcohol-related crashes? That’s one person every 40 minutes.   Many people are under the misconception that you would have to be “falling down drunk” to be too impaired to drive safely.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  Last year alone, during the winter holiday season, 420 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes.   You can’t help but wonder if those lives could have been saved if people thought twice before getting behind the wheel.

With the holidays approaching, it’s important that drivers be reminded about the dangers of buzzed driving.  Who knows, it could save a life.

The National Highway Safety and Traffic Association (NHTSA) and the Ad Council are continuing their efforts with their PSA campaign called “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.”   The buzzed driver is one who drinks and drives, but does not consider himself a hazard on the roadway because “only a few” drinks are consumed. The campaign hopes to educate people that consuming even a few drinks can impair driving and that “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.”

During the holiday season help keep “buzzed” drivers off the road.  Learn about the dangers of buzzed driving, share a story or experience you might have had with buzzed driving and follow them on Twitter http://twitter.com/buzzeddriving) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/buzzeddrivingisdrunkdriving) to get the latest updates and news from NHTSA.

You can also visit the website (http://buzzeddriving.adcouncil.org/) where readers can sign a pledge not to drive buzzed, play an interactive game to help them understand how drinking can impair driving, and hear personal stories from people who have driven buzzed.


Be an educated parent – have a safer teen and holiday season.

Also on Examiner.com

Parents Universal Resource Experts – Sue Scheff – Teenage Driving

bookcrashproofyourteensI am currently reading, “Crash-Proof Your Kids” and I am so impressed at all the information in one book! Of course, I cheated and moved forward in the book, and couldn’t believe how much valuable tips, statistics and advice is listed. As soon as I am done, I will place this book on my Books and Website blog. For now, I think this is such a critical topic for parents, I am posting an article from the author from the website, Crash Proof Your Kids. 
The Jekyll/Hyde Syndrome
As parents of teenagers we’re already painfully aware of their ability to change their personality overnight. Or sometimes in the course of half an hour, depending on the fluctuations of hormone flow and incredibly annoying things we do to trigger their bizarre behavioral changes. Well, recent research indicates that there really is a biological basis for this schizoid behavior.

Dr. Jay Giedd, chief of brain imaging in the child psychiatry branch at the National Institute of Mental Health, has spent over 14 years peering inside the heads of nearly 2,000 kids using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Giedd’s studies have shown that extensive structural changes occur in adolescent brains for many years, probably until about age 25. Remarkably, age 25 is exactly when the crash rates for adults flattens out and stays relatively similar throughout the rest of adulthood. It’s also the age at which you can first rent a car, demonstrating that the rental car companies, with cold, efficient clarity, have got it right.

As Claudia Wallis puts it in her 2004 Time magazine article, What Makes Teens Tick?: “Now that MRI studies have cracked open a window on the developing brain, other researches are looking at how the newly detected physiological changes might account for the adolescent behaviors so familiar to parents: emotional outbursts, reckless risk taking and rule breaking, and the impassioned pursuit of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”

Apparently, the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain primarily responsible for dealing with impulses and the consequences of actions—is the last part of the brain to mature, and your teen will be out of college before it does. Much otherwise inexplicable teen behavior is now thought to be due to the lag in development between the rest of the brain and the part which helps them exercise judgment. Temple University psychologist Laurence Steinberg once said, in a quote especially well-suited for this book, “It’s like turning on the engine of a car without a skilled driver at the wheel.”

To summarize, a growing body of research has shown that the brains of adolescents undergo a dramatic increase in neural activity and synapse-building and pruning. Every day they really are getting smarter, but at the same time more confused, as their gray matter sparks like an overcharged battery. Do not under any circumstances make them aware of this emerging research. It’ll only give them an excuse:

“I couldn’t help it, Dad, I had a really intense synaptic explosion last night. No way would I have rolled your car unless that happened. The nerves made me do it.”

Adjust your mentoring style to the specific personality your teen appears to be inhabiting that day. And if sparks or smoke appear to be coming from the top of their heads, it may not be because they’re steamed at you. Their brains may be on fire.

Sue Scheff – Parents Universal Resource Experts – Texting While Driving

By Connect with Kids

“I don’t even remember hitting the truck because I was looking down at my phone when I hit it.”

– Richard Tatum, 18

Three seconds. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that’s all the time it takes for a driver to take their eyes off the road and get into a car accident.  And now, with more kids than ever texting on their cell phones while they’re driving… how many more crashes will there be? How many more kids will get hurt? 

Richard Tatum was sending his girlfriend a text message, just like he does throughout the day. The problem was, this time he was driving while he was texting.

He crossed the median and collided head-on with a cement truck.

“I don’t even remember hitting the truck because I was looking down at my phone when I hit it,” says Richard, 18.

Richard’s car was totaled: he barely survived.

“It crushed my pelvis and hip and my knee.  I tore two ligaments and chipped a piece of my knee cap off.”

According to a recent AAA Auto Club survey, 46 percent of teens admit to text messaging while driving. That’s up from 13 percent just two years ago.

“You just look down to text, look up to drive, look down to text. It’s not hard to do so everybody does it,” says Richard.

Two states, Washington and New Jersey, have made driving while texting illegal.  Sixteen more are trying to pass similar legislation.  

And it’s not just texting that’s dangerous; simply talking on the phone while driving greatly impairs your ability. Research from the University of Utah shows that driving while talking on the cell phone is equivalent to a .08 blood alcohol level. In most states, if your blood alcohol level is greater than .08 you are considered intoxicated.

Experts say that parents should make it clear: teens can use their cell phone or the car, but not both at the same time.

 “With teens, you have to send the message that you cannot do this while you are driving, and if I find out you are doing it, then you are not going to be driving,says Ted Waldbart, general manager, Safe America Foundation.

As for Richard, he’s now walking and even driving again, but he will never be the same.

“He now has the hip of a 47-year-old because of the cartilage damage and everything.  And he is going to have arthritis, and he’s just not going to be able to do the things that he could do before,” says Richard’s mother, Linda Tatum.

“I don’t text when I drive anymore; it’s not worth breaking my good hip,” Richard says with a laugh.

Tips for Parents

The Federal government estimates that 30 percent of car accidents are due to driving distractions. To help keep your teen safe while they are in the car, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and Liberty Mutual Insurance Group recommend these guidelines for teaching teens about driving distractions.

  • Know and enforce your state’s Graduated Driver License laws and restrictions, including unsupervised driving, time of day and passengers in the car.
  • Sign a teen driving contract (many are available online, including SADD’s Contract for Life.
  • Set family driving rules with clear consequences for breaking the rules. SADD recommends rules such as:
    • No alcohol or drug use
    • No cell phone use, including text messaging
    • Limit distractions — eating, changing CDs, handling iPods or other activities while driving
    • Limit or restrict friends in the car without an adult
  • Be a role model. Your teen will follow your driving example, so be sure you are keeping your own rules.
  • If you receive an important call or must make a call, pull off the road. Do not drive while calling or texting.
  • Let your voicemail take the call. You can call back later when you are not driving.
  • Know when to stop talking. If the conversation is long, emotional or stressful continue it when you are not driving.
  • Do not take notes while driving. If you don’t want to forget a note, use a take recorder or pull off the road.
  • Do not eat or drink while driving.
  • Groom yourself at home, not in the vehicle.


  • Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) & Liberty Mutual Insurance Group Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education (CAPE)
  • Safe America Foundation
  • Road and Travel