December 2, 2014
How to Talk to Your Teen about Safe Driving in Oklahoma
Everyone remembers what it was like to drive as a teenager – the freedom from your parents, the excitement of going where you wanted, and the fun of being able to travel freely with your friends. However, we also know that the freedom teens love about driving can cause them to make poor decisions – almost 300,000 teen drivers are injured, and more than 3,000 teenage drivers are killed, every year in car accidents.
That’s why we put together this short guide for parents on how to talk to your teens about safe driving habits and how to enforce good driving behavior. If you’re the parent of a teenager or soon-to-be driving child, you need to know how to help your kids stay safe behind the wheel.
Understand Their Perspective
When trying to get your teen to drive safely, it’s important for you to understand their point of view as well as your own. Teenagers have a lot of people telling them what to do – teachers, parents, coaches, and friends can all be sources of pressure. Don’t add to it by being too demanding or controlling. You might end up encouraging your teen to rebel against your rules rather than encouraging them to drive safer.
Take Time to Practice
When communicating with your teen about safe driving, it’s one thing to sit down and talk about what to do and what not to do, but it’s quite another to get behind the wheel and practice. When your teen first starts driving, you should take time – ideally around 50 or 60 hours spread over a few months, in a variety of conditions – to help them learn to drive well and coach them on good habits. Even quick trips can be a good opportunity. Let your teen drive you to the grocery store or home from practice rather than the other way around.
Don’t Be Too Demanding
When coaching your teen on safe driving habits, make sure you’re specific about what to do and what not to do. Furthermore, give them reasons why they should or should not do something. For instance, don’t just say their driving is “good” or “bad.” Give them direct praise on things they do well – checking blind spots, scanning the road, leaving a good following distance behind the next car – and tell them in clear terms what they should improve on.
Just like with everything else in their lives, it can be tough to get your teen to open up to you about driving. Instead of pressuring them to talk to you, make sure you’re always available to answer questions and give advice, and be patient if they ever need your help or do something wrong. For example, if they bring your car back with a scratch on it or they’re driving too fast or recklessly, don’t get angry or upset. Instead, do your best to have a calm conversation about their actions and how they should change. You’ll find your teen is more willing to talk to you and less likely to hide mistakes in the future when they don’t fear major repercussions.
Other Ways to Enforce Safe Driving Habits:
Set a Good Example
You are your teen’s biggest role model for driving, so make sure you’re always at your best. Don’t distract yourself by texting or calling while you drive, and don’t drive too fast or aggressively. Your teen will model their driving behavior after yours, so make sure you drive the same way you want them to.
Create and Agree on Safe Driving Rules
Many parents and teens create “Safe Driving Contracts,” a set of rules and consequences that they both agree to beforehand so that expectations are clear on both sides. This also helps parents avoid getting too worked up if and when something does go wrong. For example, you can set a rule regarding the consequences for a speeding ticket ahead of time – that way, your teen knows ahead of time what will happen if they come home with a ticket, and you won’t have to argue about the punishment since it’s already set ahead of time.
Know What Puts Teen Drivers at Risk
Educating your teen about safe driving requires you to know what puts them at risk the most. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a great collection of resources for parents to learn about teen driving risks and accident prevention. The site is definitely worth a look.
Your practice driving sessions with your teen shouldn’t end when they get a license. Make sure you drive with your teen often and give them feedback on what they’re doing well and what they need to improve on. Bad habits can form quickly, and the longer you let them go without correction the harder they are to break.
Pick a Safe Car
No matter how careful you are to educate your teen about safe driving, there’s still a chance that they could get in an accident. In that case, the best protection they can have is a safe, dependable car. At The KEY, we have a wide selection of great, high-quality used cars with great safety ratings. Many of them are perfect for new drivers – or for parents to move up to so they can pass their old car down. And because we don’t sell based on your credit rating, you can get a quality, safe vehicle regardless of your finances.