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Tips for parents of teen drivers

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Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 8:30 am

Arguably no parent in the history of the world has looked forward to the day their teenager gets his or her driver's license. Though getting a driver's license is a milestone for kids, it's also the cause of heartache for parents who understandably worry about their teenager hitting the open road all by their lonesome.

While there's no way to keep kids from growing up, there are steps parents can take to make a teen's transition to fully licensed driver a little easier.

  • Institute a no cell phone policy when driving. This is a relatively new, yet major concern for parents of teen drivers. Most of today's teens have their own cell phones, and parents could very well be helpless when it comes to keeping kids from talking or texting on their cell phones while driving. That said, a no-cell-phone-while-driving policy should be instituted and thoughtfully discussed with teenagers. Make it known that should an accident occur because of cell phone use while driving, both the car privileges and the phone will be taken away.
  • When applying for colleges, consider the school's freshman driving policy. A child's first year away at college is enough to make any parent lose sleep, but sending kids off to college with a car for their first year only adds to the sleepless nights. When kids are applying to colleges, look for schools that don't allow freshmen to have cars. Many schools don't, so this should not be a problem. If a child chooses a school that does allow freshmen to have a car, let kids know you would be more comfortable if the car stayed home, at least for the first semester while kids learn to adjust to their new surroundings.
  • If possible, wait an extra year. If your teenager is the rare breed who isn't especially excited about getting a driver's license, let it slide. Studies show 16-year-old drivers are far more likely to get in accidents than their 17-year-old counterparts.
  • Limit passengers. Teenage drivers are more likely to get in an accident with each passenger who comes along for the ride. One study indicates teen drivers with one fellow teenager in the car are 40 percent more likely to get in an accident than they would be if they were driving alone. Those percentages increase with each additional teenage passenger, so parents should institute a reasonable policy that limits the number of passengers that a teen can take on when driving.
  • Make sure teens are driving safe vehicles. While it might be nice to give your teen the flashy sports car for his or her birthday, doing so is a big mistake. A teenager's first car should be the kind of vehicle that discourages irresponsible driving. The vehicle should also be fully equipped with all the necessary safety features, including airbags and anti-lock brakes.
  • Stress the importance of seatbelts. A significant percentage of teenagers killed in auto accidents weren't wearing their seatbelts at the time of death. All drivers should wear seatbelts, and parents should set a positive example by wearing their seatbelts whenever riding in a car. To encourage teens wear their seatbelts when driving, institute a policy wherein they lose their vehicle privileges should they be caught driving without a seatbelt.

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