Research shows that parents can be the most important influence on a teen's driving behaviors. Our firm frequently supports Missouri safety campaigns and initiatives that target teens: they are, after all, one of the groups most at risk for auto accidents (distracted driving accidents in particular). If you're the parent of a new driver, and you're looking for a helpful safety resource, we recommend the AAA Foundation for Safety's website, Keys2Drive, which provides useful information for both teen drivers and their parents. Importantly, the website emphasizes the importance of being proactive and starting a dialogue with teens, encouraging parents to build a strong foundation by discussing defensive driving even before their children are ready to get behind the wheel.
AAA Keys2Drive: Tips for parents in the "Learning to Drive" process:
• Evaluate your teen's readiness. If, as a parent, you have concerns about your teen being responsible or following rules, those are issues to address before adding an automobile to the mix. It's likely that these issues will affect your teen's driving behaviors as well.
• Get informed. It's important that you're knowledgeable about the licensing process and current Missouri traffic laws, so your teen recognizes you as a voice of authority about driving. You want to make sure that your information is current: as AAA points out, it's probable that a great deal has changed since you got your driver's license. (As an added benefit, AAA offers the "Dare to Prepare" program, an online workshop, via their website.)
• Start talking. As an experienced driver, AAA encourages you to share your "road wisdom" with your teen sooner rather than later. Also, there are important issues that you'll want to make clear early on: What does it mean to be a safe driver? When exactly will your teen start driving? Will your teen be responsible for gas costs or insurance fees? What specific rules should you put in place?
• Focus on passenger safety. Make sure your teen knows that wearing a seat belt is not optional - for drivers or passengers. Also, discuss who your teen will be riding with, and what behavior is appropriate for passengers. The more teenagers in the car, the higher the risk of a crash.
• Be involved. Talk about what you're seeing or doing when you're driving. Make it a regular conversation, and when your teen starts driving, keep that conversation going. In Missouri, only 40 hours of supervised driving are required, but AAA recommends at least 100 (and they offer tips and strategies for supervised driving sessions).
• Be a good role model. Mimic the behaviors that you expect from your teen. If you frequently speed, or follow too closely, or send text messages while driving, you're sending a message to your teen that these behaviors are acceptable.