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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