Where to Start for Teen Drivers? With Parents

October 3, 2013

From 2005 to 2011, deaths in crashes with teens behind the wheel declined by 47 percent. This encouraging reduction in the number of teens killed may be attributed to reduced exposure as teens delay driving and follow Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) provisions. Research points to stronger parental involvement in the learning-to-drive process as a way to achieve further reductions.

At CIRP@CHOP, we explore the behavioral aspects of strengthening this bond between parents and teens. From teens, we frequently hear that they take cues from their parents for what is appropriate driving behavior. Likewise, parents express concerns about not knowing where to start to help their teens become safe skilled drivers.

In support of the theme for National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 20-26) -- It Takes Two: Shared Expectations for Teens and Parents for Driving -- I want to share practical tips for parents on modeling safe driving behaviors as a place to start to help their teens:

Be a Role Model
A great time for you to become hyper-aware of your own driving is when your teen starts to sit in the front seat -- at age 13 or older. Consider: Are you following the rules of the road, using your turn signal, coming to a full stop at stop signs, and not rushing to make a yellow light? If you talk or text on your phone while driving, STOP NOW! (Place your cell phone in a bag or glove compartment or hand it over to a responsible passenger.) Don’t speed. In sum, drive how you want your teen to drive.

Narrate Your Driving
Whether not yet driving or just beginning to learn, your teen can benefit from hearing you narrate your own driving. Let your teen understand the higher-order thinking that goes into daily driving, which you now do automatically. Here are everyday examples you can think out loud to your teen:

  • how you plan the route to your destination, such as to avoid commuter traffic or dark roads at night
  • how you check to make sure everyone is buckled up, your mirrors work, and the driveway is hazard free before pulling out
  • how far in advance you signal a lane-change or turn
  • how you moderate your speed as you approach an intersection
  • how you scan for and identify hazards ahead, beside, and behind you as you drive
  • how you manage your passengers so they don’t distract you

When you narrate your own driving, it helps your teen tune into the steady multitasking and responsibility of driving. Your own driving may also improve – a nice byproduct of your efforts.