Picture this scenario: You, an experienced driver, are traveling through the city at the posted speed-limit. You find yourself negotiating busy intersections, changing traffic patterns―then all of a sudden your phone rings. What is your next move? What would you do if your teen was in the car beside you?
Now consider this same scenario, however, this time, imagine it’s your newly-licensed 16-year-old child behind the wheel, driving through the city at the posted speed-limit, while negotiating busy intersections and changing traffic patterns. If during this trip his or her cell phone begins to ring, what do you expect your teenager will do? What would you want the response to be?
Likely you hope your teen would choose not to answer the call or to respond to the text message while driving. But how can you know the correct decision will be made? Start by recognizing that you’re the most influential factor in assuring your child has the proper foundation to make good choices behind the wheel. Your teen will most likely imitate the driving habits―good or bad, of the person with whom he or she drives with the most and it’s probably also the person who has taught them to drive―and that’s you Mom and Dad.
Don’t fall into the parent trap of expecting your child to do as you say but not as you do. Make no mistake about it; your children are watching your actions behind the wheel, observing your reactions to stressful driving conditions, and examining how well you pay attention, or not, to your driving responsibilities. Demonstrating good driving habits which your children can emulate will help assure they make better choices for themselves when they’ve got the keys to the car.
A recent survey found that 59 percent of parents are aware that crashes are the number one killer of teens, but only one quarter of those parents talked about safe driving with their child. However, just having the conversation isn’t enough. If you want to teach your kids the importance of safe driving, you also need to “walk the walk” and consistently reinforce the message by driving in a safe and responsible manner yourself.
Every time your teen is with you in the car, a lesson in driving begins, whether you’re aware of it or not. As a safe and responsible driver, set an example worthy of imitation, such as always using the seat belt, turning your phone off, traveling at a safe speed, and being mindful of your response to aggressive drivers.
While some teens do crash as the result of risky behavior, most crashes occur because the young driver doesn’t have the skills or experience necessary to recognize and deal with certain hazards. Take an active role in fast-tracking your son’s or daughter’s safety performance by providing him or her with extra hours of practical, hands-on experience where you can offer measured, helpful coaching tips. And remember, your actions behind the wheel, good or bad, are making an impression today and will certainly influence how your teen drives tomorrow.