Teens are infamously dangerous drivers, and distracted driving is involved in over 10 percent of fatal vehicle crashes involving teens. There are a number of ways to keep your teen safe on the road, but if you want to minimize driving distractions in particular, there are specific things you can and should do. Parents, check out these ideas:
1. Make it easy to stop texting while driving
While states have a range of rules regarding using cellphones while driving, the safest option is to not use them at all. In particular, your teen should never text while driving. Luckily, there are apps that can help.
Don't just pick an app and impose it on your child. Instead, sit down and look at the options together, and find an app that works to satisfy your teen and keep him or her safe. There are apps that read texts aloud as they come in, apps that send an automatic response to texts telling the sender that the recipient is busy driving, and apps that don't allow calls or texts to come through while your teen is driving.
Think about talking as well. Ideally, teens shouldn't talk on the phone while driving, but if they must, consider investing in hands free technology.
2. Limit the number of friends in the car
Socializing over the phone isn't the only distraction teens can face – unfortunately, having friends in the car can also be extremely distracting to teens. To keep your teen focused on the road, ban friends in the car until he or she has had at least a year of experience behind the wheel.
Find other creative ways to help your teen travel in a group. Is there an older, safer driver that can take the wheel? Can the teens ride the bus or bicycle en masse to their destination? If it's a special event, can you rent a limo and take the pressure off the teen drivers?
3. Make a playlist
Besides phone calls and friends, fiddling with the stereo also distracts teens as they drive. The safest approach is probably to ban music altogether, but keep in mind that, for some people, music can help them focus. Talk honestly with your teen about how music can be a distraction and urge them to keep the volume under control so they can hear outside noises.
To help your teen avoid fiddling with the radio as he or she drives, have your kid make a playlist. That way, your teen doesn't have to punch through the radio stations, hunt for CDs or pick digital tunes – he or she just has to hook up their playlist and leave it running for the drive.
4. Enroll your teen in driver's education
Keeping your teen focused while driving should start long before he or she ever takes his or her first drive alone. Ideally, you should enroll your teen in a driver's education program. Not only does completion of one of these programs often garner you a discount on insuring your teen, it also helps to keep your teen safer.
Driver's education programs show your teen what to expect while driving, and these programs guide him or her how to respond to various, common road situations. Your teen learns what to do as well as why it's so important, and in some driver's ed classes, teens can even use simulators that help them learn to deal with distractions while driving.
Even though you should definitely talk with your teen about distracted driving and other dangers of driving, in some cases, it may sound more convincing coming from a stranger.
For more tips on how to help your teen avoid distracted driving, talk with a driver's education educator.