Setting Ground Rules
Although teen driver fatalities have declined over the years, motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of teen deaths. In fact, the United States is in the midst of an alarming overall increase in roadway fatalities. This makes it more important than ever for parents to be insistent on the rules set for their teens’ behavior behind the wheel.
A study by Liberty Mutual and SADD found that parents are setting a poor example for teens by engaging in unsafe driving behaviors, such as texting and driving, and are not listening to their kids’ warnings. Forty-one percent of teens say their parents continue these unsafe behaviors even after their teens ask them to stop, and 28 percent of teens say their parents justify unsafe behavior.
As a parent, you are the number one influence on your teen driver’s safety. Self-reported surveys show that teens whose parents impose driving restrictions and set good examples typically engage in less risky driving and are involved in fewer crashes.
Here's how to get started on shaping your teen into a safe and capable driver.
- Start the Conversation Early: Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 18-year-olds in the United States, and 2,082 teen drivers were involved in fatal crashes in 2016. Talk to your teens about safe driving early and often, before they reach driving age. But don’t stop there: Have conversations with the parents of your teen's peers or friends and compare notes—both are key to your teens’ safety.
- Set the Standard: Talking is important, but action is even better. Show your kids safe driving behavior. Start by modeling good habits any time you drive them anywhere, even before they begin to drive. Make sure you, yourself, are turning off your cell phone and stowing it away, and buckling your seat belt before starting your car.
- Get It In Writing: When your teenagers begin driving, we recommend you set ground rules and outline the consequences for breaking them in a parent-teen contract like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Parent-Teen Driving Contract. Consider hanging your contract by the family car keys or near the front door.
- Spell Out the Rules: No cell phones, no passengers, no speeding, no alcohol, no driving when tired, and always buckle up. These rules could help save your teen’s life.