We often joke about the terror associated with handing the car keys to our teenaged drivers. But no matter how much we laugh about it the fear is justified: Traffic accidents are the number one cause of death among American teens. While we tend to think driver’s education starts when teens get their permit, the fact is we are unwittingly teaching kids our good – and bad – driving habits from the first time we put them in the car. Ford Motor Corporation’s Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program shows teens tend to emulate how their parents drive, and a majority of teens and tweens surveyed say they rely heavily on their parents’ advice when they start to drive. So, here are some tips to help you set a good example and guide your teen into becoming a safer driver.
• Engage in the driving process – As teens get closer to earning/acquiring their learner’s permit, actively engage with them about driving. Talk about safe driving behaviors, practice with them, seek educational opportunities, and be clear that unsafe actions won’t be tolerated.
• Buckle up – It’s the law, and if you go without your seat belt, your teen is more likely to do the same. In a crash, a person not buckled up is much more likely to be injured or killed than someone wearing a seat belt.
• Never speed – Research conducted for Ford Driving Skills for Life shows that if parents speed, their teens are more likely to do the same. Excessive speed continues to be a factor in about one-third of all traffic deaths nationally.
• Don’t drive distracted – By setting a tough “no distractions” rule for your teen, and modeling this same behavior, you send the message that distracted driving will not be tolerated.
• Don’t follow too closely – Keep the proper distance from the car in front of you. Rear end collisions are common and preventable.
• Always scan ahead for hazards – Remind your teen to be aware of what is going on around them by scanning to the right and left as they drive
• Limit the number of passengers – Research shows young drivers can easily be distracted by just one additional passenger – increasing the risk of a crash exponentially. Many graduated driver’s license programs restrict the number of passengers as a condition of issuing an early license or permit; Enforce those restrictions.
• Never drink and drive – Remind your teen that drinking and driving will not be tolerated.
Ford Driving Skills for Life
In addition to hands-on clinics, Ford Driving Skills for Life will reach an additional 150 high schools with its safe driving materials, Web-based learning, partnerships with state highway safety agencies, fun contests and free educational materials for parents and teachers.
You can find more information online at www.DrivingSkillsForLife.com.