Teaching Your Teen to Drive

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Safety: Dos and Don'ts

The statistics on teen driving are startling: According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motor vehicle accidents are the main cause of death for American teens, accounting for at least a third of all deaths among 16- to 18-year-olds. That's 5,000 kids a year. Do these numbers make you want to keep your teen from driving anywhere at all, ever again? There's no need to go that far! We've compiled a list of Dos and Don'ts that will help put your teen in a safe-driving frame of mind.

DO make seat belts a requirement for your teen driver and any of her passengers. Most teens have a mistaken sense of invincibility; they wear seat belts less often than older drivers.

DON'T allow your teen to pile her car full of friends, even once she has her license. Too many teen passengers create dangerous distractions -- rock music blasting, food flying, and drinks being passed around. Statistics show that the chance of a car accident increases with every additional passenger.

DO restrict driving during the high-risk hours. This means anytime after dark, and particularly Friday and Saturday nights, when the highest percentage of car accidents occur.

DON'T stand for driving under the influence. Have a serious discussion about the perils of combining drugs or alcohol with driving, and insist that your teen and her friends always have a designated driver when going out to parties. You might want to establish safe options for your teen, such as giving her money for a taxi ride home, or allowing her to call you at any time of night, if she and her friends aren't in fit condition to drive.

DO create a safe-driving contract with your teen. It should cover the safety essentials, including wearing a seat belt at all times and refraining from speeding and driving under the influence. Have your teen sign the contract, making sure she knows the ramifications of breaking it.

Lilan Patri is a freelance writer and creative writing teacher living in New York. She has not forgotten the tears she shed when her father taught her how to drive stick on San Francisco's steepest hills.


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