May is Global Youth Traffic Safety Month! This occasion encourages communities across the world to spread awareness on the importance of keeping young drivers safe behind the wheel. Due to their age and overall lack of experience as motorists, teen drivers face greater risks out on the road. Luckily, parents can play a big role in mitigating these obstacles and ensuring their sons and daughters are equipped to safely handle the responsibility of driving.
If you’re a parent who is interested in doing what you can to protect your teen driver during Global Youth Traffic Safety Month and beyond, here are a few tips to help you out:
Create a Productive Dialogue About Potential Risks on the Road
Safety starts with awareness, which is why it’s so important for parents to openly discuss potential risks on the road with their teen drivers. Having these conversations before their sons and daughters get behind the wheel will help these adolescents establish a solid foundation of knowledge before they ever step on a gas pedal. To do this, parents can casually point out what not to do when they witness examples of poor driving while their teens are in the car with them. Additionally, it can be helpful to point out the hazards of dangerous driving examples commonly portrayed in the media, such as a TV character driving while fighting with someone over the phone. Regardless of the strategy they utilize, parents can help their aspiring drivers by discussing the dos and don’ts of safe driving behavior, such as:
- Avoiding distractions while driving, such as texting/conversing on the phone, eating, or grooming
- Refusing to operate a car while intoxicated and/or refusing to get into a vehicle if a driver is inebriated
- Following all traffic laws and regulations, such as using signals, following speed limits, honoring the right-of-way, etc.
- Reacting calmly to angry drivers
- Avoiding driving while angry, emotional, or drowsy
- Keeping a vehicle properly maintained, such as by ensuring proper fluid levels and checking tire pressure
- Having an emergency kit in the vehicle at all times
Ensure Teens Receive Adequate Driver Training Experience
Nothing is more important when it comes to keeping young drivers safe behind the wheel than ensuring they receive adequate driver training experience. While this may seem like an obvious point, parents may find it difficult to define what adequate experience involves. In Colorado, drivers under the age of 18 must complete 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training (10 of which must be at night) with a licensed driver over the age of 21. However, if a student driver is between 15 and 16 ½ years old, he/she must also complete an additional six hours of driver training with a Colorado-certified driving instructor. However, if no instructor is available in a nearby vicinity (i.e., 30 miles of the home), 12 additional hours with a licensed driver over 21 can be used to substitute this requirement.
However, these are the minimum requirements established by law, so they don’t necessarily reflect the needs of each unique adolescent. Every individual learns at a different pace, so it’s natural that some students will pick up on safe driving measures more quickly than others. Regardless of who the student is, anyone will become a better driver by practicing as much as possible. Because of this, it is still highly recommended that student drivers complete a drivers ed course and/or take private lessons with state-certified instructors before getting their drivers licenses.
Having a teen driver learn under the supervision of a certified expert can be extremely beneficial in supplementing a parent or guardian’s instruction. Additionally, busy parents with tight schedules can utilize private driving lessons to help offset the responsibility of helping their sons and daughters log the required number of behind-the-wheel hours.
Set a Good Example as a Safe Driver
Teenagers often model the behavior of their parents, so it’s important for parents to be mindful of the driving behaviors they practice. It’s common for even the most law-abiding citizens to relax a bit on certain driving measures, and while it may not seem like a huge deal to bend the rules on occasion, this can send a dangerous message to young and inexperienced motorists. As parents teach their sons and daughters how to safely operate a vehicle, they can use this as a time to brush up on the rules of the road themselves. Everyone is safer if they follow the regulations outlined in the DMV driver manual, so parents and their teenagers can become better drivers together by following the best behind-the-wheel practices.
Below are some of the most common traffic rules that seasoned drivers often forgo:
- Come to a complete stop at stop signs (avoid the rolling stop).
- Allow adequate space between vehicles (don’t tailgate).
- Pedestrians have the right of way when crosswalks and walking signs are present.
- Always use turn signals when changing lanes or making turns.
- Put the cell phone away while driving.
- Wear a seatbelt, even when only driving short distances.
Establish Clear Expectations Once a Drivers License Is Obtained
Once teen drivers have received their drivers licenses, parents should establish clear expectations regarding what their adolescents must do in order to retain the privilege of being allowed to drive. Communicating rules and consequences for breaking those rules from the start will help parents and their teenagers get on the same page. Some parents choose to establish a verbal agreement, while others make the agreement more official by drafting a safe driving contract.
Important items to discuss include:
- Curfew expectations
- Locations/distance that the teen is allowed to drive
- Expectations for following safety measures and driving laws (e.g., always wearing a seatbelt, never texting while driving, etc.)
- Rules regarding peer passengers/graduated licensing laws
- Steps to take if an emergency occurs
- Expectations for paying for gas
Treat Drivers Education as an Ongoing Process
Another way parents can help keep their sons and daughters safe behind the wheel is to treat drivers education as an ongoing process. Parents can continue taking drives with their adolescents and providing guidance even after a driver license has been obtained. This allows them to keep an eye on their young motorists’ behavior and assess if any bad habits have begun to develop. Additionally, taking a defensive driving class can help adolescents develop advanced driving skills that extend beyond the basics of traditional drivers education.
Global Youth Traffic Safety Month is an excellent time for teen drivers and their parents to discuss the importance of safe driving. By discussing potential risks, ensuring teens receive adequate driver training, acting as a good driving role model, setting clear expectations, and treating drivers education as an ongoing process, parents can go a long way in ensuring their sons and daughters stay safe behind the wheel. Taken together, these steps can help ensure that the message of Global Youth Traffic Safety Month sets the foundation for a lifetime of safe driving.
Find a Drivers Education Program with Colorado’s Largest and Most Trusted Driving School
DriveSafe Driving Schools is committed to helping student drivers learn the skills necessary to become safe and competent motorists. Our expertly taught courses go above and beyond Colorado’s DMV requirements, and this passion for serving our students is what has allowed us to become the largest and most trusted driving school in the state.
Whether you’re looking for traditional drivers ed, online courses, or private driving lessons, we can help! Sign up for one of our services today, or call one of our friendly representatives if you have any questions. We are looking forward to helping you reach your behind-the-wheel goals!