Winter 2009 Forward to a Friend

Parent-Teen Driving Agreement
Father and Son

TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE, AND PERHAPS NOTHING PROVES THAT MORE THAN WITNESSING THE GROWTH OF YOUR CHILDREN FROM DEPENDENT BABIES TO SELF-RELIANT TEENS. THE DAY YOUR CHILD IS READY TO TAKE THE WHEEL OF THE FAMILY VEHICLE IS FRAUGHT WITH EMOTION – FROM EAGER ANTICIPATION TO OVERWHELMING DREAD. HERE ARE SOME THOUGHTS ON HOW TO COPE.

BRACING TEEN DRIVING STATISTICS

Most parents have memories from their own teenage years concerning dangers associated with driving. Fears for their children are reinforced by grim statistics:

  • Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
  • Mile for mile, teenagers are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers – NHTSA
  • There are approximately 5,500 teenage vehicle occupant deaths annually from traffic accidents (63 percent drivers, 37 percent passengers) – American Academy of Pediatrics, NHTSA
  • Approximately 25 percent of teen drivers killed in traffic accidents were intoxicated – Insurance Information Institute
  • Approximately 20 percent of all 16-year-old drivers are involved in crashes – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

These statistics are the tip of an iceberg of facts, figures, and other information about teen drivers. For more, do a Web search on “teenage driving statistics.” Two good sources of information are NHTSA and IIHS.

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS

Some of the reasons young people are susceptible to a high percentage of vehicular accidents make logical sense; other reasons might surprise you. Following are a few significant factors contributing to traffic accidents among young people. Many of them overlap.

Mother handing keys to daughter

LACK OF EXPERIENCE – While teenagers have the world at their fingertips and can reference vast amounts of information, they rarely experience driving any kind of four-wheeled vehicle until it’s time to get a license. The steering wheel of a family vehicle is likely to be the first one that they’ve touched. Reaction times are quick, but teen drivers often don’t recognize situations that require a reaction. Accident rates are highest for drivers with the lowest experience.

THE PROPENSITY TO TAKE RISKS – Overlapping inexperience, risk-taking, and overestimating capabilities are other contributing factors. Teens will be teens, and they tend to take chances. They’re also susceptible to peer pressure and mood swings.

DRIVING WITH TEENAGE PASSENGERS – There’s a direct correlation between the number of young passengers in a vehicle driven by a teenager and the likelihood that it will be involved in an accident: The more teen passengers, the more accidents. Passengers tend to be distracting and encourage risk-taking.

DISTRACTIONS – This one is logical, too, and overlaps having passengers in the car. Fiddling with interior controls, eating, drinking, and talking on a cell phone (or texting!) are a few of the distractions that take a driver’s attention from the road.

DRIVING AT NIGHT – Traffic accidents increase during nighttime hours for teenage drivers.

DRUGS AND ALCOHOL – These are unacceptable for anyone behind the wheel of a vehicle. When combined with inexperience and the tendency to take risks, drugs and alcohol are deadly.

USE OF SEATBELTS – Studies reveal that more than half the teenage drivers and passengers who lost their lives in traffic accidents were not wearing seatbelts (NHTSA).

COMING TO TERMS

Whatever the situation might be for state and local legislation, parents are the keys to helping teenagers maneuver the obstacles and dangers associated with driving. Be aware of laws and regulations, and take an active role in schooling your teenager about driving and its risks. There is no substitute for education and training, no matter the cost. Examine your own driving to ensure that you’re setting a good example.

Mother handing keys to daughter

One of the best tools at a family’s disposal is an agreement that recognizes the risks and factors contributing to teenage driving accidents as well as delineating expectations and consequences within your own family unit. You’ll find a number of recommendations for what to include online from insurance companies, safety organizations, motor clubs, and health agencies.

AGREE TO AGREE

Here are some recommendations for parent-teen driving agreements.

TIMING – Discuss family rules and limitations before a license is issued – even before driver education begins.

BUY-IN – Everyone involved in setting rules, expectations, and following them needs to contribute and accept all conditions. This includes all parents and/or guardians as well as the driver. As an important document, the agreement demands undivided attention as it is written and discussed. Allow plenty of uninterrupted time for it. Points concerning safety should be non-negotiable.

BINDING CONTRACT – All parties must stand firm by the provisions of the agreement – following them and enforcing them. Everyone involved should sign the agreement.

A number of sample agreements can be found easily on the Internet. Use them for reference as you put yours together.

Suggestions for inclusion:

  • Rules that everyone must follow, such as always wearing seatbelts, obeying safety laws, etc.
  • Commitments concerning vehicle costs and condition
  • Limitations at the different stages in the process – through the learner’s permit, intermediate license, and solo driving, depending on your state regulations
  • Tie in school grades with accessibility to a vehicle
  • Specific consequences for any violations of the agreement
  • Post your agreement somewhere accessible to all parties

A TIME TO RELISH

Then participate and enjoy! This is one of the best times to build parent-child relationships through having a common family goal.