Teens take risks.
Although parents might worry about drugs, alcohol, sex or gangs, the biggest risk most teens will take is getting behind the wheel of a car.
More than 3,000 teens die each year as a result of car crashes, and auto crashes are the leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds.
Parents can make a huge difference in the driving safety of their teens. Here are some ideas:
• Be a responsible role model. Your child will be a passenger in your car long before he or she drives on his or her own. Model safe driving practices. Obey the speed limit, don’t speed through yellow lights, keep a safe distance between cars and come to a complete stop at stop signs. Talk about driving rules as you are driving; it is an opportunity to teach as your child grows.
• Send your teen to driving school. Your teen will receive instruction from an objective professional and be coached on identified weaknesses. It is worth the expense.
• Realize that not all teens are mature enough to drive at 16. Kids mature and develop emotionally at different ages. Parents should make the final determination on whether their teens are ready.
• Practice makes perfect. Supervised driving under a variety of conditions is important in driver development. Make sure your teen gets plenty of practice. When your teen receives a license, ride with him or her at least once a week for the first year to monitor driving skills.
• Set some ground rules. It is helpful to have your teen come up with a list of rules that he or she thinks are important. Sit down with your child and review those rules, adding others until you both feel comfortable. Set consequences, and be sure to follow through every time.
• Give your child a stake in his or her driving responsibilities by requiring him or her to pay part of his or her insurance and gas fees.
Teen drivers are good drivers when they have active and involved parents. Be there.
Cheryl Page is a retired prevention specialist from Salem-Keizer School District. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.