There will likely be much trepidation when it’s time for your teen to hit the road. Even if your child is already an excellent driver, the road can be dangerous. And without many real-world driving experiences, teens will generally need plenty of help.
Teaching your teen the importance of safe driving is the first step for any parent. From proper seat adjustment to car maintenance tips, you have a lifetime of experience to pass on to your children, and they will benefit immensely from your shared knowledge.
Model Smart Driving Behaviors
Long before your teen gets behind the wheel, they will be watching your driving habits. Parents can be some of the best (or worst) driving role models for new drivers. Your children already look to you for guidance, even if they don’t show it. Thus, by simply enacting the behavior you want your teen driver to use, you are teaching them how to be safe on the road.
Start with the essential safety necessities. These include:
- Always wearing your seatbelt and ensuring everyone in the vehicle is wearing theirs.
- Always using proper signaling.
- Avoiding distractions while driving, such as eating, applying makeup, or changing the radio.
- Being a kind vehicle occupant in order not to distract the driver.
By learning these and other safe behaviors early, they will already have a head start when they get behind the wheel. This is especially important once your teen starts driving around with others of their age. Peer pressure can be powerful, so the importance of your lessons will pay off when your teen refuses to join the latest ghost-riding TikTok challenge.
Use Family-Safe Driving Apps
If your teen is ready to drive, they probably already have a smartphone. Many experts agree that teens should have phones once they start driving for safety purposes. Though phones can be a distraction, your teen should know never to use their phone while driving since you modeled the appropriate driving behavior.
That said, phones provide many safety features to keep the entire family safe. For example, there are several safe driving apps designed just for families. These include:
- OnMyWay: This app auto-disables text notifications when the car moves faster than 10 mph. It still allows Bluetooth functionality, so your teens can still use navigation apps and hands-free phone services.
- TrueMotion Family Safe Driving: This app tracks driver data and allows others (such as parents) to view driving histories. This app will highlight where safe driving took place, as well as other types of data, including speeds and moments of aggressive driving.
- SAFE 2 SAVE: This app offers an incentive program for safe driving. Drivers earn two points for every minute of safe driving (that is, not using the phone). These earnings can then be spent at local businesses. Families can create family groups to host friendly competitions and keep each other accountable for their safe driving.
In addition to apps, most smartphones come with driving modes, as do many other non-driving apps. Navigation and music apps often prohibit use while the car is in motion. With digital assistants like Siri, however, drivers can make or take essential calls completely hands-free.
Adjust the Seats and Mirrors Before Driving
Teen drivers must understand the importance of a safe driving posture. Not only will it prevent fatigue and soreness while on the road, but proper posture is designed to keep the driver safe in a crash.
Parents should model this behavior every time they get behind the wheel. If the vehicle is shared amongst family members, adjust the mirrors and seats before driving. Remember to:
- Keep the seatback upright, so that your back is against the seat and reclined no more than 110 degrees.
- Make sure seatbelts lay across the shoulders and the hips. They should not sit across the neck or the lower abdomen, as this can cause injury.
- Grip the steering wheel with your fingertips, not your palm. Forget about the traditional “10 and 2” position. New driving studies have shown that “9 and 3 o’clock” is the safest steering position, and it causes the least stress on your arms and shoulders.
You also need to stress the importance of driving breaks and stretching. Teens (and indeed most youths) often feel indestructible. They might not immediately feel the aches and pains of prolonged driving positions. However, instilling this behavior at a young age will prevent injury and distractions in the future.
Welcoming a teen driver is a family celebration. As they take their next steps in becoming adults, it is up to the family to guide them into this new age. Be sure to model the behavior you want your teens to follow. Use family driving apps to keep everyone safe and review driving histories. Even if their drives are perfect, you can use these reports to highlight and reiterate the great choices they made.
Lastly, teach them to adjust the vehicle according to their needs before they start driving. Proper posture will not only feel more comfortable, it will also save them in the event of a crash. If your teen is driving, there isn’t much that can be done to soothe your nerves. With these guides, though, you’ll know that you are giving them the best opportunity for safety and smart driving.
Rachel is an Outreach Associate with North Star Inbound. An honor graduate of New York University, she contributes home improvement, landscaping and renovation pieces. When not writing, she enjoys gardening with her mom and spending time in the Florida sunshine.