Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and young adults. More than 5,500 young people die every year in car crashes and thousands more are injured. Parents can play an important role in reducing these numbers and keeping their teens alive.
The following are ways you can help keep teens safe on the road:
Be a role model. If you expect your teen to drive safely, you need to drive safely, too.
Always wear your seat belt.
Don’t drink and drive. Never allow any alcohol or illegal drugs in the car.
Don’t eat, drink, talk or text on your cell phone, or do anything else that could distract you from your driving.
Stay within the speed limit and obey all traffic signals.
Know the laws in your state. It is important that you know and understand the graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws where you live. Specifically, you need to know the restrictions and limitations on teen drivers who have permits and provisional licenses. You must also learn about your own legal responsibilities for providing a good supervised driving experience for your teen.
Set specific rules. Before you let your teen drive, set specific rules that must be followed (see Parent-Teen Driving Agreement below).
At first, the restrictions you set should be strict. You can gradually relax the rules after your teen has demonstrated safe driving. And the rules you set should depend on the maturity level of your teen.
Because so many crashes occur in the first 6 months of unsupervised driving, your teen shouldn’t drive teen passengers or drive after 9:00 pm at first. And don’t ask your teen to give rides to younger siblings until he or she has had extensive driving experience.
After your teen has demonstrated safe driving for 6 months, you might allow 1 passenger and a later curfew (for example, 10:00 pm). Before allowing more passengers, keep in mind that more passengers may make it more likely that your teen will have a crash. Studies show that 1 passenger increases the risk of a crash by 40%, 2 passengers doubles the risk, and 3 passengers almost quadruples the risk.
Enforce strict penalties. Generally, penalties for breaking the contract should match the seriousness of the rule broken. Punishments for reckless driving, such as speeding or drunk driving, should be strict and may involve loss of driving privileges.
Take your teen on the road. The 6 hours of driving practice in many driver education programs is not enough. Your teen needs a lot more supervised driving practice, and some nighttime driving is important, too. Some states require 50 hours of supervised practice. There are books, videos, and classes for parents on how to teach teen drivers. Remember that you’ll probably need a lot of patience.
Contact the doctor if your teen is taking medicine for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The doctor can discuss with you and your teen the possible benefits of taking a short-acting medicine prior to driving at night. Evidence shows that medicine helps the teen driver with ADHD stay better focused and less distracted.
Check out the car. Make sure the car your teen is driving is safe and in good condition. If your teen is buying a car, help your teen research safety ratings and find a mechanic to inspect the car. Air bags and lap-shoulder belts in the rear seat are important safety features.
Make a tough decision. If you’re concerned that your teen may not be ready to drive, you can prevent your teen from getting a license. All states allow parents to block their teen from getting a license if the teen is thought to be immature or reckless.
I, _______________________, will drive carefully and cautiously and will be courteous to other drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians at all times.
I promise that I will obey all the rules of the road.
Always wear a seat belt and make all my passengers buckle up.
Obey all traffic lights, stop signs, other street signs, and road markings.
Stay within the speed limit and drive safely.
Never use the car to race or to try to impress others.
Never give rides to hitchhikers.
I promise that I will make sure I can stay focused on driving.
Drive with both hands on the wheel.
Never eat, drink, or use a cell phone to talk or text while I drive.
Drive only when I am alert and in emotional control.
Call my parents for a ride home if I am impaired in any way that interferes with my ability to drive safely.
Always take my medicine on time (if I am taking medicine for ADHD) and not drive if I am unable to focus my attention completely on driving.
I promise that I will respect laws about drugs and alcohol.
Drive only when I am alcohol and drug free.
Never allow any alcohol or illegal drugs in the car.
Be a passenger only with drivers who are alcohol and drug free.
I promise that I will be a responsible driver.
Drive only when I have permission to use the car and I will not let anyone else drive the car unless I have permission.
Drive someone else’s car only if I have parental permission.
Pay for all traffic citations or parking tickets.
Complete my family responsibilities and maintain good grades at school as listed here: ____________________________________________________
Contribute to the costs of gasoline, maintenance, and insurance as listed here: ____________________________________________________
I agree to the following restrictions, but understand that these restrictions will be modified by my parents as I get more driving experience and demonstrate that I am a responsible driver.
For the next _____ months, I will not drive after ________ pm.
For the next _____ months, I will not transport more than _______ teen passengers (unless I am supervised by a responsible adult).
For the next _____ months, I won’t adjust the stereo or air conditioning/heater while the car is moving.
For the next _____ months, I will not drive in bad weather.
I understand that I am not permitted to drive to off-limit locations or on roads and highways as listed here: ________________________________________________________________
I agree to follow all the rules and restrictions in this contract. I understand that my parents will impose penalties (see below), including removal of my driving privileges, if I violate the contract. I also understand that my parents will allow me greater driving privileges as I become more experienced and as I demonstrate that I am always a safe and responsible driver.
Penalties for contract violations
|Drove after drinking alcohol or using drugs||No driving for ___ months.|
|Got ticket for speeding or moving violation||No driving for ___ months.|
|Drove after night driving curfew||No driving for ___ weeks/months.|
|Drove too many passengers||No driving for ___ weeks/months.|
|Broke promise about seat belts (self and others)||No driving for ___ weeks/months.|
|Drove on a road or to an area that is off-limits||No driving for ___ weeks/months.|
Driver __________________________ Date ________________
Parent promise: I also agree to drive safely and to be an excellent role model.
Parent (or guardian) __________________________ Date ________________
Parent (or guardian) __________________________ Date ________________
American Academy of Pediatrics
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
National Safety Council
Network of Employers for Traffic Safety
See also Parent-Teen Driving Agreement and a Message to Parents of Teen Drivers Pediatrician Implementation Guide
Inclusion on this list does not imply an endorsement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP is not responsible for the content of the resources mentioned in this publication. Web site addresses are as current as possible, but may change at any time.