Parents in Action: Teen drivers

Teens need practice, parents need nerves of steel

There comes a time in every teen's life when they want to start driving. And whether or not parents like it, they'll certainly have to embrace the idea of their "baby" being behind the wheel. Now most parents cringe with nervousness at the thought of having to teach their teen to drive but the importance of raising safe, law-abiding drivers is paramount for their safety and well being.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about 3,000 teens in the U.S. die in motor vehicle crashes. Another 350,000 teens are treated in emergency rooms with injuries suffered during an accident. The good news is that most teen vehicle crashes are preventable.

Here are a few steps you can take that'll help your teen stay safe on the road.

Before the Test

Whether you know it or not, you've been teaching your child to drive since the moment you put them in a vehicle. Remember to set a good example when driving because your teen will duplicate your driving patterns.

Here in Florida, your teen can get a Learner's Permit around age 15. About one year before the test, head over to your local DMV and pick up a Florida Driver License Manual. Encourage them to read other driving materials as well like the safety portion of the car manual, use the Internet to research accident prevention tips and sign up for Driver's Education at school.

Learner's Permit

According to Pew Research Center, more than one third of teens have admitted to texting while driving. Talk to your teen about distracted driving and create a guideline of activities that are not allowed while driving, including eating, drinking, socializing, the radio and using equipment like mp3 players.

Practice makes perfect so spend as much time as possible practicing with your teen driver even if it's to and from school. Choose one day a week when you can spend at least one hour driving with them. If being the copilot is too nerve-racking for you, try signing your teen up for driving lessons.

Your teen will be required to complete a certain amount of hours before they can take the final driving test. If you think your child does not have a complete grasp of the road consider extending your teen's supervised driving period.

Driver's License

Now that your teen has passed the driving test it is important to emphasize that they're expected to maintain the safe driving habits and parameters that they practiced. Establish a driving contract that encourages responsible, disciplined driving and penalizes bad driving and behavior. If they are ever ticketed for bad driving, have them pay the fine and suspend their license for an adequate amount of time.

Create driving boundaries and limitations, restricting where, when and with whom they can drive places. And remind them to stay vigilant when they are passengers in a car with another teen driver.

Consider installing an easy-to-use electronic monitoring unit. To help promote responsible driving, some insurance companies recommend that you install a device in your vehicle that tracks speed, time of travel and mileage. For a monthly fee, you can sign up with a bumper sticker program that allows other drivers to report your child's driving behavior.

Don't forget that you were a teen driver once too. Even though your first reaction to your teen driving may be panic, relax and open lines of communication and planning with your teen and they'll learn to be a safe, law-abiding driver.

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