Parenting a teenager may be one of the hardest things to do well. One of the many challenges that are unique to this age group is balancing granting your children more independence while continuing to exercise some control over their well-being.
When teens reach driving age, this balance becomes crucial. For teenagers, the car represents new freedom; for parents, it can represent a new source of unimaginable stress. Here are three ways that you as a parent can promote safe driving habits in your children to help reduce your anxiety:
1. Set a good example
Maybe the best thing that you can do to promote safe driving in your household is to set a good example of driving yourself. Your children look to you as a role model and will often follow your lead. If they see you use your phone while driving or not buckle up, they are likely to follow suit.
Practice encouraging good driving habits for all drivers in your family. This will not only naturally encourage and reinforce good driving behaviors in your children, but it will also make any requirements you make for your teens' driving seem more reasonable.
2. Talk with your children about safety
While there are many courses and tests in place to make sure teens take to the roads safely, you as a parent can reinforce safe driving habits with additional conversations at home. Talk to your teen about common safety issues such as:
- Texting while driving
- Playing music too loudly in the car
- Wearing seat belts
- Consuming alcohol
This can help remind them to drive responsibly even after they get their license. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides resources about different topics that you can discuss with your children to promote better safety.
3. Set limitations on driving times
According to the NHTSA, traffic accidents occur more frequently depending on a variety of factors--especially inclement weather, increased number of cars on the road and drunk drivers.
Knowing this, it may be prudent to encourage or require your child not to drive in bad weather, late at night on weekends or during rush hour. Also, be aware that the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are the "100 Deadliest Days" for teenage drivers.
While setting these limitations may not always be possible, minimizing driving during these periods of heightened risk and making your child aware of times when they should be extra careful on the road is advisable.
Be open with your children
Teenagers can be hard-headed. Approaching your children honestly about your concerns for their safety may make them more receptive to your message, and make you seem like less of an enforcer trying to restrain their newfound freedom.