“Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath.” – Arnold H. Glasow.
Reasoning with a teenager at times, feels like a futile undertaking, a feeling that seemingly like being stuck between a rock, and a hard place. I know this since I was a teenager somewhat recently. As I have grown, I see things in a much different perspective than when I was a teen.
For instance, as a teenager, if my mother told me that according to the CDC, the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15-24 is unintentional injury, it would not have registered. That feeling of invincibility goes way over time, and while some escape relatively unharmed, others are not as fortunate.
When a teen gets in a car with a friend or gets behind the wheel themselves, many parents have the same feeling of apprehension and hope that their children get home safe and sound. Counting down the hours can until their child walks back down the hallway, and you can hear the sound of their bedroom door shut, as they retire for the evening safely is an arduous task for parents. While those 4 hours, 17 minutes, and 36 seconds that their child is out on the road is a time that a parent seemingly cannot control, what a parent can control is spending time when their child is home talking about the dangers of being on the road.
All children are different. They have different personalities and emotions; some are outgoing, some teens just like to keep to themselves. Many a parent have said to themselves, or others, “How do I talk to my teen?”
As a former card carrying member of teen-hood, I have 7 tips for help parents ingrain the priority of acting safely when they are out on the road.
1) Talk Talk Talk
Communication is key. In life, if there is an issue, the more you run away from it, the more it rears its ugly head. While you definitely will be greeted with a roll of eyes, or even an “I don’t care”, keep bringing up the consequences of speeding, texting and driving, and drinking and driving. As a teen, years before I took my job working at National Auto Division, I didn’t want to hear it all the time; however, although I didn’t listen all the time, my parent’s lessons where not far from my current thoughts.
Sitting at the dinner table, reiterate to your child to make sure their phone is out of their reach when driving. Remind them that drinking and driving can blow their chances at gaining freedom and going away to school. Keep reminding them of these things, over and over again. While teens are crazy creatures, no child wants to intentionally disappoint their parents. The more you talk to them, the better chance that your voice will be in their head when they are face with a decision between right and wrong.
2) Set Boundaries
Even as an adult now, I still feel my curfew was a tad too harsh at times. However, my perspective changed. Years back, I felt that my curfew was impeding my ability to have a good time with my friends. Now, I view the fact that I had a curfew was squarely a measure of discipline I had to follow. While it wasn’t much fun having the car back in the driveway no later than 11:00 PM on the dot, I do understand the method to my dad’s madness.
According to a study that Coverhound Insurance wrote about in 2012, as the time gets later into the evening and into the next day, alcohol plays a greater factor in accidents.
“In comparison, 53% (1,020 out of 1,941) of all fatal accidents between 9pm and midnight were alcohol related in 2010. Things get even more treacherous after midnight. From 12:01 to 6am, alcohol was a factor in a full 71% (1,466 out of 2,069) lethal crashes.”
By imposing a curfew of 11:00 pm, my father was trying to keep me away from being on the road when alcohol related accidents were more prone to happen.
3) Set Boundaries and Make Sure They Are Followed
The saying “Rules are meant to be broken” is an old proverb that is thrown around loosely in today’s society. It is human nature, more importantly, teenage nature, to seek out what the boundaries are, and thrust past them. If this was not the case, how in the universe would we have put a man on the Moon? Knowing that, if you are the rule setter, you must know that the rule you set, whether it is a curfew, or limit of people inside your teens car, will be attempted to be broken. The question now is, will you become the unpopular parent in enforcing these rules?
I once knew I was going to be late coming home, and I had that overwhelming sense of doom overcoming me knowing that I was going to have to face an angry dad ready to ban me from using my car. As the genius kid I was, I decided to buy myself some more time at McDonald’s with my friends, and concocted an idea of saying I was beat up outside of McDonald’s and when I finally arrived home, I held my head, and moved slowly, and faked the fact that I needed to go to bed since I had a concussion. My dad decided to ask me a few basic questions, and quickly diagnosed me with a case of lying. I was sent to my room, and my while my original punishment was going to be one week taking the bus to school, it was now increased to two weeks bus duty. If my dad let me go on this one, I am not sure if I would have pulled a stunt like that again, but I would be more likely to.
4) Just Because Your Teen’s School Teaches Drivers Education Shouldn’t Stop You From Intervening.
Working in the customer service department at National Auto Division, one common theme when consumers need to cancel their Vehicle Service Contracts are that the vehicle has been totaled in an accident, and at times, their teenager is involved in the accident. One question I always think of but never ask is, "Could more have been done educating this teen on the road?" Some seem to think yes. The New York Times wrote an article titled “The Mixed Bag of Driver Education.” AOL Autos wrote for us to think again if we think driving schools make us safer.
AOL reported that "Despite widespread appeal of driver education, scientific evaluations indicate that it does not produce safer drivers," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a 2009 report. "Although it may be 'common sense' to think that driver education is the preferred way to learn how to drive, the notion that a traditional driver education course can by itself produce safer drivers is optimistic."
In the New York Times article, it was summarized that driver’s education courses allow teens to bypass graduated license restrictions, and may be doing more harm than good, since studies have shown the graduated license restrictions have helped save lives.
Just because your teen is taking a driver’s education course does not mean they are fully educated to make decisions on the road. Take matters in your own hands, do not solely rely on their teachers.
5) Does Your Teen Have The Right Type Of Car?
When looking for a car for your teen to drive, many parents have said let’s our teen an older model vehicle. I drove an old Nissan when I first got my license and I was not thrilled about it. I think my parents were trying to show me humility or maybe just wanted something affordable. While there were obvious benefits to that method, was it the correct choice?
As new models role out each year, the auto industry is constantly coming up with new safety features. It may be in you and your child’s best interest to find a vehicle that is affordable with great safety features. If a teen has a car that is on its last legs, what if the vehicle has a malfunction while the inexperienced teen is driving it?
6) Using Technology To Your Advantage
I will be the first to admit that many may be against this and some will view this as an invasion of privacy. However, in your case as the parent, you child depends on you for their well-being, you are providing for that child, and that child is most likely driving a car that you paid for with insurance that you are paying for.
There are GPS technologies where you can track where your automobile is going whenever you so choose. A Ford technology called “My Key” lets parents set the top speed of their child’s vehicle, as well as limiting the audio levels of the vehicle stereo system. Progressive has a program called “Snapshot” which monitors driver speeds, mileage, even how many times the break is applied.
Technology is new and improving each year, and when it comes to your teen driving your vehicle, think about using the tools at your hand so you are educated on what is going on.
7) Talk With Other Parents
If your teen is a passenger in a vehicle, their safety is at the whim of potentially another teen driver. Unfortunately, many times this teen driver may be a complete stranger to you. You have no idea what this teen was taught by their parents, what their attitude is, how well they comply with acting safely on the road.
Get to know your children’s friends. Invite them into your home and let your children’s friends frequent your home. You will be able to see how they interact with your child, and you can get a more educated guess on how they will act when they are driving. Get to know their parents to and talk to them often. The more you share with each other, the more pieces of the puzzle you will have in place of knowing what is going on when your child is out on the road.