Car accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths in New York. On top of an already frightening statistic, AAA reports that summer has the highest fatality rates for teen drivers. Teens have more time and freedom during the summer months and end up spending more hours behind the wheel with friends. As a parent, what can you do to keep them safe during these long summer days?
Chances are that you are not going to always be with your teen while they are driving. But you can take several steps to help keep them safe.
- Set driving rules.Research shows that teens have higher accident rates when they are given unrestricted access to the family car. Have your teen ask permission when would like to drive. Use this as an opportunity to ask them questions about where they are going, what route they plan to take and who else will be in the car. Asking questions will make them think about their actions and strategize their drive. Driving at night also increases the chances of accident. Set a “driving curfew" to keep your child off the road at night. This does not have to match their actual curfew. If you allow them to stay out past their “driving curfew," make sure that you or another trusted family member are able to pick them up.
- Discuss cell phone use. Cell phones are one of the leading causes of distracted driving accidents, and teens are some of the greatest users of cell phones. Explain the dangers of distracted driving, and place a designated “cell phone basket" in the backseat of the car. Make it a family rule that the driver must keep their phone in the basket until they are safely parked at their final destination. This will help keep all family members safe, not just your teen driver.
- Trust but verify. Safety is too important to leave up to chance. Even though you trust your teen, monitor their driving practices from afar. There are several GPS-enabled devices on the market that monitor the driver’s speed, location, acceleration and braking. Use the device as a training tool and not a form of punishment. Sit down with your teen on a weekly basis to review their driving data, and discuss opportunities for improvement. It is a great way to open a dialog about safe driving practices. The devices also allow you to set limits for the driver. If they break any of those limits, such as speed or leaving a specific geographic region, you can receive an email or text alert.
Despite your, and your teen’s, best efforts, accidents do happen. Not only do you have to worry about your own teen’s driving practices, you have to worry about other negligent or distracted drivers on the road. If they are involved in a serious car accident, consider contacting an attorney who can evaluate whether you have a claim for compensation.