Teens are one of the most at-risk groups when it comes to being involving in car accidents. Although people ages 15 through 24 account for only 14 percent of the population, they represent 30 percent of the total costs of motor vehicle injuries among males and 28 percent among females, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you are the parent of a teen driver in Colorado, you should set aside some time to review safe driving tips with your child. Some of the most important tips for teaching your young driver are:
1. Focus on the Important Stuff
Of course you want your teen to be a well-rounded driver with a variety of skills related to operating a motor vehicle, such as parallel parking. However, drilling your teen on parallel parking or three-point turns should not be your top priority. Deadly accidents rarely occur while these types of maneuvers are being performed.
Rather than focusing on minor skills that will not make too much of a difference in terms of your teen’s safety, focus on the important stuff. Teach your teen to drive the speed limit, avoid driving while distracted, cope in situations where visibility is impaired, control a vehicle that is slipping on ice, and the like.
2. Practice in Tough Conditions
Yes – starting your teen out in a parking lot when he or she has never been behind the wheel before is a great idea, as well as a safe one. But once they have their learner’s permit or their license and are legally allowed to be on the open road, practice with your teen in conditions that are a bit tougher than your normal route to the store.
Instead, an article in The Wall Street Journal recommends practicing on more challenging roads, at night, and even in bad weather. This way, your teen learns how to navigate more challenging situations but has an opportunity to do so with a driving expert (you) in the vehicle.
3. Watch Your Mouth
Driving practice with your teen can be a great opportunity to spend time together and bond over the fact that your teen is learning a new skill. However, be careful what you say and the topics that you bring up while your teen is focused on driving. For example, driving practice is not the time to bring up your teen’s bad grades or the fact that you found a pack of cigarettes in his or her room.
If you have something important to talk about with your teen, save it for another time. When your teen is driving, allow the focus to be on the task at hand.
4. Do Not Speak in Absolutes
No one wants to hear that what they are doing is wrong, whether they are 16 or 61. Although you should certainly offer feedback for your teen’s driving and critique when appropriate, be careful about saying things like “You are always distracted” or “You never pay attention to road signs.”
Instead, focus on the good things that your teen is doing, and sandwich constructive criticism between two positives.
5. Be Patient
Do you remember when you were trying to drive and how overwhelming and scary the experience was? Learning how to drive a car is not always easy, and it requires learning a whole new skill set for the first time.
If your teen makes a mistake, be patient. Getting flustered, constantly correcting or harping on them, or worse – yelling or getting angry – will not be helpful to either of you. Keep your cool – if you do, they will be more calm as well.
6. Offer Some Key Reminders
There are some key reminders about safe driving that you should offer to your teen, watch for as they are driving, and kindly reinforce when necessary. These include:
- Follow the speed limit. Teens may be tempted to drive faster than they are legally permitted to in an effort to show off or even to feel powerful. However, speeding is incredibly dangerous, and the faster a vehicle is traveling at the time of crash, the more severe injuries are likely to be.
- Do not drive while distracted. Perhaps the biggest threats to teen drivers on the road today are distractions, primarily in the form of a cellphone. If your teen has a cellphone – as they almost surely do – remind them to always put it away when they are behind the wheel. Taking their eyes off of the road for even a few seconds to check a text or snap a picture can be deadly. Remember that other passengers, such as a group of rowdy teenagers, can also be distracting.
- Never drink and drive. Make your teen promise to never drink and drive. Remind them that if they do decide to have a drink while out one night, you will gladly pick them up or call them a cab rather than having them get behind the wheel while intoxicated.
7. Stay Focused
Parents need to be focused, too, when in the car with a teen driver, the Colorado Department of Transportation reminds us in its manual Teaching Your Teen to Drive. Don’t ever use your cellphone while your teen is learning to drive, keep the radio turned down low, and pay attention to everything that is going on.
8. Give “What If…?” Scenarios
This game can be fun, but it should also be taken seriously. When you give a “What if…?” scenario, you are challenging your teen to think about what he or she would do if the unexpected were to occur.
When Accidents Happen, Our Attorneys Are Here to Help
Teaching your teen to drive can be a scary and emotional experience. Hopefully, the tips above will help you to teach your teen driving skills to help avoid accidents.
In the unfortunate event that your teen does get into an accident, try not to panic. Contact the experienced Colorado car accident lawyers at The Sawaya Law Firm to discuss what you should do. Call or fill out our online form to schedule a free case consultation.