Car accidents are the leading cause of teenage deaths. The majority of teen car accidents stem from avoidable factors, such as speeding, drinking and distracted driving. By respecting your teen’s desire for independence with an open dialogue and clearly established rules, you can help them stay safe while allowing them to enjoy their newfound freedom.
1. Talk to Your Teen About Safe Driving
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration cites immaturity, lack of skills and lack of experience as the three factors leading to a higher rate of car accidents among teen drivers. Help mitigate these risks by discussing smart precautions with your new driver. If they’re attending a new driver’s education class, discussing what they learned after each class can be an easy way to start the conversation. Here are some of the topics you should cover:
- Drunk driving: The legal blood alcohol concentration for drivers over the age of 21 is .08, but underage drivers are expected to have a BAC of .00. Remind your teen that underage drinking is illegal, as is drinking and driving.
- Distracted driving: Texting while driving is illegal in Florida, and talking on the phone while driving is illegal in most states as well — but these aren’t the only culprits of distracted driving. Eating, drinking, changing the radio station, applying makeup and talking to passengers are all behaviors that can take your teen’s attention and eyes away from the road.
- Speeding: According to the NHTSA, speeding was a factor in nearly one-third of all fatal teen car accidents in 2016. Studies have shown that speeding saves drivers little to no extra time. Remind your teen to watch for changes in speed limits and to go slower during inclement weather.
2. Set the Example for Your New Driver
While discussing safe driving with your teen is a good first step, you should also be mindful of your own behaviors behind the wheel. New teen drivers often learn by watching their parents, so it’s important to be consistent in your actions.
When you’ve been driving for a long time, it’s easy to believe you can handle distractions and higher speeds better than most, but your unsafe behaviors will eventually lead to consequences. Brush up on the driving rules in your state and use this as an opportunity to check in on your own driving.
3. Establish Road Rules and Consequences
During your teen’s first few weeks behind the wheel, limiting nighttime driving and driving with others may be a good idea. You may also consider setting rules for distracted driving. If your teen breaks your rules, further limiting their driving privileges or taking away their mobile device can help reinforce better behaviors.
While road rules and consequences can prove beneficial, it’s important that you explain the reasoning behind the rules to your teen. Be willing to modify rules as your teen gains experience, and reward consistent, positive behaviors with greater privileges. Your goal should not be to control your teen, but to help them practice safe and smart driving.
4. Be a Source of Support for Your Teen
Let your teen know they can call you when they’re in trouble, even if they’ve broken one of your rules. Remind them that their safety is your concern above all else. While you should not encourage underage drinking, be willing to pick up your teen if they’ve been drinking and are unable to drive. If your teen knows they can count on you, they’ll be much less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
5. Know Your State’s Graduated Driver Laws
New drivers are part of their state’s graduated driver licensing program. This means they must follow certain rules and restrictions until they’ve gained sufficient driving experience. In Florida, drivers age 16 and 17 have nighttime driving restrictions. In other states, new drivers may have restrictions on the number and type of passengers in their vehicles. Know your state’s laws and use them to establish ground rules with your teen.
Car Accident Lawyers in Sarasota, FL
Education and proactive parenting are key to helping your new teen driver avoid accidents, but collisions can still happen. If you or your teen has been involved in a car accident, contact Syprett Meshad by calling 941-365-7171 or using the form on this page. We serve clients in Sarasota County and the surrounding areas of Florida, including Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, North Port and Venice.