How to prevent your teen from driving while distracted

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As their 16th birthday draws nearer, your teen is excitedly waiting for the day they can get their driver's license. As a parent, you are excited for your child to reach this milestone and are probably looking forward to no longer being the family taxi shuttle. However, you may still be worried about your teen's safety behind the wheel when you are no longer there to provide guidance.

Driving is a complex skill that takes time to get good at. Initially, driving involves extreme concentration and focus, but as driving begins to feel more like second nature, drivers devote less attention to driving. A teenager's lack of driving experience coupled with increased risk-taking behavior raises their chance of getting into an accident.

An at-risk demographic

Teen drivers tend to feel invincible behind the wheel and underestimate dangerous situations. Drivers ages 16-19 are more likely to get into an accident than any other age group. Male drivers have an increased risk, as they are more likely to speed and not use a safe following distance. Also, teen drivers with teen passengers are even more at risk for a crash than when they are in the car by themselves. The risk level increases with each teen passenger.

What constitutes distracted driving?

Whenever a driver's hands are off the wheel or their eyes are off the road, they are guilty of distracted driving. Distracted driving also happens whenever the driver's mind is not focused on driving. While cell phone use and texting while driving are definitely an ongoing problem, countless other things can distract a driver. Eating behind the wheel or grooming while driving are other common distractions. Even talking with friends can pose problems, which is why teen drivers with teen passengers are more likely to have a car accident.

Preventing distracted driving

To limit your teen's risk behind the wheel, talk to them about risk factors and their role in reducing the risks. Make sure your teen and any passengers wear a seatbelt at all times. Consider limiting how many passengers your teen can have in the car. Another helpful tool can be a parent-teen driving agreement wherein the teen agrees to safe driving behavior, with violation of the agreement resulting in the loss of driving privileges. Lastly, remember to model good driving behavior yourself. Your teen is learning from you, so make sure to put forth a good example.

For a teen, getting their license is a momentous occasion and a gateway towards independence. As with all other elements of parenting, make sure they are adequately prepared for sitting behind the wheel to ensure the roadways are safer for everyone.

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