Like many others, my teenagers received their driver’s licenses recently. It’s an emotional roller coaster for any parent. One must trust your hormone-addled and not yet fully mature teen to make good decisions and follow safe driving rules. And one must trust that they won’t encounter bad, distracted, or impaired drivers. Regardless of the hours you’ve personally spent in the car observing your child’s driving, handing over the keys is still a nerve-wrecking experience.
Did you know that we are in the “100 deadliest days” for teenage drivers right now? According to the American Automobile Association (“AAA”), the average number of deadly teen driving collisions increases by 15% between Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays. Nationwide, more than 8,300 people died in crashes involving teen drivers from 2008 to 2018 during the “100 Deadliest Days,” according to AAA. Further, according to AAA, “Our data analysis has found that for every mile driven, new teen drivers ages 16-17 years old are three times more likely to be involved in a deadly crash compared to adults.” The reason for the rise in car collisions is obvious – teens are home, out of school, and available to drive! And while we have already blamed plenty on the global pandemic, you can add another one to its sordid list, deadly collisions, because most teenage drivers have been home since mid-March and in all likelihood will be home through early fall.
So, what can we do to help decrease the number of deadly collisions? As I suggest in most of my articles: communicate with your child. Talk with your child about abstaining from dangerous and reckless behavior while driving, such as speeding, impairment, and distracted driving. While it’s easier to parent with the “Do as I say, not as I do,” philosophy when it comes to driving, it’s really best to teach by example, as your kid is watching you (I have been scolded several times now by my teens that the law requires us to make a right-hand turn into the closest lane). Talk to your child about their comfort level behind the wheel. For example, mine were comfortable driving but had issues with merging and parking, so we focused on those areas. If you are able, enroll your child in a driver’s education course. There are many to choose from and afford your child with the 30 hours of practice time needed to get a license.
It’s also important to know your child’s whereabouts. An app I use is Life360. It allows me to see where my child is and how long he/she has been at that location. If my child is driving, it shows me the route and their speed. While my teens are still new drivers, I also ask them to text me when they have arrived safely at their location so I can resume breathing.
On its website, AAA had a few more helpful tips such as establishing a parent-teen driving agreement that sets family rules for teen drivers. Additionally, to support parents in conducting practice driving sessions during COVID-19 and beyond, AAA is providing a free four-page guide to help parents coach their teens on how to drive safely. The “Coaching Your New Driver – An In-Car Guide for Parents” AAA Parent Coaching Guide 2020 offers behind-the-wheel lesson plans, including a variety of “DOs and DON’Ts” to make the learning experience as helpful as possible. For parents, the guide can be beneficial as they coach their teens on a variety of routes, building on their formal behind-the-wheel training. TeenDriving.AAA.com has a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teens for the dangerous summer driving season. The online AAA StartSmart Parent Session also offers excellent resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges. Teens preparing for the responsibility of driving should enroll in a driver education program that teaches how to avoid driver distraction and other safety skills.
Stay safe and healthy and wishing your teens safe driving!
Adena Astrowsky is a government lawyer and author of Living among the Dead. She has received an Amazing Women award from the Phoenix Suns and National Bank of Arizona for her professional and philanthropic work. She also owns a handmade and natural skincare product company, Turquoise Farms. She lives in Scottsdale with her husband and three children.