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Health and Fitness News

Teens Behind the Wheel

Teaching your teenager safe driving skills.

Some parents dread the day their teenagers get behind the wheel, while others are eager for extra help with carpool. Regardless of what mom and dad think, most teenagers count down the days and minutes until they have a license in hand. It’s a right of passage and a sign of independence, but having a driver’s license also comes with great responsibility.

That responsibility comes into clear view when you consider the statistics. Teen drivers under the age of 20 are three times more likely to die in a crash than drivers over age 20. Why is this? Most to blame is that teens are inexperienced when it comes to making split-second decisions in traffic, at high speeds, or in bad weather conditions. They often lack coordination skills between their feet, hands, and eyes; are easily distracted; and are more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors.

So how can parents equip their teen with the skills necessary to be a safe and competent driver? Here are a few tips.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The more hours of practice teens have behind the wheel, the better driver they will be. Whether you’re in the passenger seat or your teen takes a driver’s education class, it takes an average of 50 hours over the course of several months for a teen to become a proficient driver.

In the beginning, take your teen to a big, empty parking lot to practice starting, stopping, and parking. Then graduate up to a parking lot that has curbs and turns. After this, you can let him drive on back roads where there’s little traffic, slowly working his way up to busier streets and driving at night or in the rain. Only after proving competent on city streets should he venture onto the highway.

Teach Rules of the Road

Teens must pass a written exam before getting their license. While they’ll have study materials, it’s never too early to teach them the rules of the road. As you drive, explain the meaning of various road signs, the use of blinkers, how to merge onto the interstate, when you can turn right on a red, how to parallel park, and the importance of defensive driving.

Teach your teen the laws concerning driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, wearing a seatbelt, and driving under the speed limit. Additionally, teens should be taught not to eat, drink, text, or talk on the phone while driving. Young drivers shouldn’t be allowed to have more than a friend or two in the car at a time, drive at night, or drive far from home.

A competent driver is one who knows how to perform basic maintenance on her car. This includes how to pump gas, check air pressure in the tires, jumpstart a battery, check oil and transmission fluid levels, and how to change a tire.

Set an Example

You expect your kids to abide by the laws of the road so you should, too. Set an example for your kids of what safe driving looks like. If you don’t want your teen messing with his phone, speeding, or yelling at other drivers, you shouldn’t either. Your kids are watching, so set a good driving example.