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How to help your teen become a safe driver

Driving is a privilege. It also is an acquired skill. Your teen’s journey may start with a license at 16, but it takes practice to become a safe driver. It takes your persistence to pump the brakes on your teen’s overconfidence and teach them how to drive cautiously and effectively.

According to the latest information from the Centers for Disease (CDC), six teens die every day in auto crashes. Every year, hundreds of thousands of teens are taken to emergency rooms with serious injuries. In 2017, all these teenage fatalities and injuries accounted for $13.1 billion – almost 8% of the total cost of all motor vehicle injuries. Here’s what you can do to help your teen avoid becoming a statistic.

Reinforce good driving habits

Older drivers often know how to drive defensively and anticipate hazards better than teens. Teens tend to be more reckless and easily distracted. The CDC lists several of their most reckless behaviors, including:

  • Speeding or tailgating, especially at night or in poor weather conditions. Teens often need to leave more space between their vehicles and the vehicles ahead of them.
  • Leaving their seat belts unbuckled. The CDC reports that only 58.8% of teens and young adults wear seat belts, the lowest rate of all age groups. Roughly half of all these drivers killed in auto accidents had failed to use their seat belts.
  • Drinking and driving. Though the number of young drivers who drink and drive has decreased by more than half since 1991, impaired driving still is a serious problem. Alcohol was involved in 20% of teen drivers’ fatal crashes in 2017.

You can help your teen by drawing attention to these dangers and steering them in other directions.

Practice with them

There is no substitution for practical experience. Before your teen starts driving alone, you can help them build good habits. Here are a few good tips:

  • Ramp up their skills. Don’t just hop on a freeway. Teach them how to back up, park and make left turns before unleashing them into rush hour traffic. Start during the day, then graduate to nighttime and driving in bad weather.
  • Consider enrolling your teen in a graduated driver licensing (GDL) system. A GDL empowers parents to supervise and build their teens’ driving skills. Illinois allows drivers as young as 15 to enroll in a GDL. There are restrictions on when a teen can drive unsupervised and with how many passengers.
  • Set a good example when you are behind the wheel. Aggressive driving and swearing at fellow motorists might feel cathartic, but it only legitimizes road-rage behavior for your impressionable pupil.

Patience is imperative. Your teen is destined to make mistakes. That is how they will learn. Stay positive and remember to praise proper techniques.

Safe driving matters

There’s no overstating the value of driving safely. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, and there are countless accidents beyond those fatalities.

Teaching your teen to drive carefully will make them safer. It will also reduce the chances your teen puts others at risk or is found at fault in an accident.