Advice from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's traffic safety programs.
"When parents supervise their teens' behind-the-wheel behavior, teens tend to be much more responsible," says Rose McMurray, associate administrator for traffic safety programs at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Here are her tips for parents of teen drivers:
- Be a good role model. Always wear your seatbelt, never use your cell phone while driving, and don't be an aggressive driver.
- Insist your teen wear a seatbelt. Statistics show that 50 percent of all teens who died in car crashes last year were not wearing them.
- Remind your teen that a car can be a weapon and driving is a privilege, not a right. "A car can kill someone. If it's not being used responsibly, it should be taken away," says McMurray.
- Restrict night and weekend driving. It is estimated that teens crash more often after 11 p.m. on weekdays and after midnight on weekends.
- Make sure your teen knows that it's okay to call you if she's in trouble and needs a ride home. Tell her that you won't be angry or upset, no matter what.
- Drive with your teen occasionally. You'll get a firsthand view of his weaknesses behind the wheel.
- Talk to your teen about car insurance. McMurray says that since most teens don't pay their own car-insurance bills, "They don't realize that the bills escalate with each driving infraction."
- Restrict the number of passengers in your teen's car. Remember that the more friends your teen is carrying, the greater the risk of an accident.
- Be prepared to take away the keys. "Not every teen is ready for the responsibility of driving," says McMurray. "It's up to a parent to know when to say 'No.'"
- Limit teens' driving during peak accident season, which begins in June, when your teen gets out of school, and runs through Labor Day weekend.
- Write to your local state representative about strengthening teen-driver laws. "It's a great way to lay the groundwork for safety," says McMurray. "And if you get your teen involved in the process, it's one more way to show him how to be responsible."
Meredith Franco is an assistant editor of Ladies' Home Journal.
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