Setting Ground Rules for Teens | A Blueprint for Driving Safety

| Teens and Parents |

During adolescence, earning a driver’s license symbolizes a pivotal moment of freedom and accountability. Although there has been a reduction in fatalities among teen drivers, vehicular accidents continue to be the foremost cause of death among teenagers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). This alarming fact highlights the essential influence parents have in steering their children towards practicing safe driving behaviors.

Setting Ground Rules for Teens

The Influence of Parental Behavior

A revealing study by Liberty Mutual and SADD highlights a concerning trend: many parents are not setting the right example when it comes to safe driving. The statistics are telling, with 41% of teens reporting that their parents continue unsafe driving behaviors, such as texting while driving, even after being asked to stop. Furthermore, 28% of teens have observed their parents justifying these hazardous actions. This behavior not only undermines parental credibility but also implicitly condones risky driving habits.

The Power of Parental Guidance

The adage “actions speak louder than words” rings especially true in the context of teen driving. Self-reported surveys have consistently shown that teens whose parents actively set driving restrictions and exemplify safe driving behavior are less likely to engage in risky driving behaviors and are involved in fewer crashes.

Starting the Conversation Early

Given that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 18-year-olds in the United States, initiating conversations about safe driving early and often is paramount. This dialogue should not be confined to the family unit; engaging with the parents of your teen’s friends can broaden the safety net, ensuring a unified message is being communicated.

Leading by Example

As a parent, your behavior behind the wheel is the most powerful lesson you can impart. Demonstrating safe driving practices, such as avoiding cell phone use and always buckling up before driving, sets a tangible standard for your teen to follow.

Formalizing Expectations

The transition from passenger to driver is a significant one. Establishing clear ground rules through a parent-teen driving agreement can provide structure and clarity to this transition. The CDC’s Parent-Teen Driving Agreement is an excellent tool for this purpose, serving as a constant reminder of the agreed-upon rules and consequences.

Clarifying the Rules

The guidelines should be straightforward and non-negotiable: no cell phone use while driving, no passengers, no speeding, no alcohol or drugs, no driving when tired, and always use seat belts. These simple rules are foundational to ensuring your teen’s safety on the road.

Setting Ground Rules for Teens | A Blueprint for Driving Safety

As parents, your role in your teen’s driving education is indispensable. By setting clear expectations, leading by example, and reinforcing the importance of safe driving practices, you can significantly reduce the risks associated with teen driving. Remember, the goal is not just to keep your teen safe but also to cultivate responsible driving habits that will serve them for a lifetime.

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