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How to Talk to Your Teens About the Top 5 Teen Driving Dangers
If you’re a parent, guardian or adult family member of a teenage driver, then you know that helping them stay safe on the road is a top priority. After you’ve invested in driver’s ed classes, spent hours behind the wheel coaching their driving skills and prepped a safety kit for their vehicle, you might be wondering what else you can do to help keep them safe behind the wheel.
The good news is there’s a free, easy technique you can use to help boost their safety: Talk to them!
Just spending a few minutes every week talking about the biggest teenage driving dangers — and how your teen can avoid them — can make a big difference. In fact, while motor vehicle crashes are the number 1 cause of death for US teens, it’s estimated that nearly one-third of fatal accidents involving young drivers are due to preventable factors such as speeding. By making sure your teen is aware of those factors, and committed to eliminating them from their own driving, you can significantly reduce their risk of accidents on the road.
Starting the Conversation
The best time to start the conversation is before your teen starts driving — but it’s never too late. Even if your teen has been behind the wheel for a few years now, it’s still a good idea to talk about safe-driving skills.
Wondering how to get the conversation started? Here are a few ideas:
- While watching movies or television with your teen, you likely won’t have to wait long for an on-screen vehicle accident, especially if your teen is a fan of the action, mystery or thriller genres. Even TV commercials will often show car accidents. Each one is an opportunity to start a conversation about road safety.
- If your teen loves sports or the outdoors, the drive to or from a game, hike or fishing trip can be the perfect time to talk while you have a captive audience. It’s even better if another responsible adult can drive and you can focus all your attention on communicating with your teen.
- For teens who are inclined toward science or math, or who don’t believe anything not backed up by hard data, try opening with a few stats. For example, almost 11 fatal car accidents every day involve young drivers (ages 15-20). See if your teen can calculate how many crashes that is in a year (sadly, over 4,000). Doing the math themselves might help your teen realize how serious this topic is.
- Remember that October 18-26 is National Teen Driver Safety Week. Your teens will likely be seeing posts and hashtags on the topic on social media, so this is a perfect time to start or reinforce conversations about safe-driving skills.
Tip: To make sure you have a productive conversation, both you and your teen should put away your phones and any other devices that might be a distraction while you talk.
Top 5 Dangers of Teenage Driving
- Impaired Driving
- Unbuckled Seatbelts
- Distracted Driving
A Conversation Worth Repeating
Here’s the most important tip of all when it comes to talking to your teen about safe driving: Never stop!
The reality is that one conversation about safe driving isn’t enough. You’ll need to have this conversation over and over again, until both you and your teen are sick of talking about it — and then you need to keep talking about it even more! You can never have this conversation too many times, because this is a conversation that could save your teen driver’s life.
However, not every conversation has to be a serious sit-down at the dinner table. Here are a few ideas for shaking up your communication style:
- Write your teen an old-fashioned, hand-written letter. Just for fun, you could even mail it! Your teen likely rarely gets letters in the mail, so this could be a simple but heartfelt way to catch their attention.
- Send your teen an email or put it in a text message. Be goofy and fill it with emojis, gifs and more. It might make your teen roll their eyes, but the dorkier it is, the more likely they are to remember it.
- Leave sticky notes on the car’s dashboard, the bathroom mirror or anywhere else that will catch your teen driver’s attention. Don’t be afraid to go overboard and cover an entire wall with sticky notes! This is important stuff and whatever you can do to help your teen remember will be worth it.
- Post it on social media and tag your teen’s account. If you know their friends’ accounts, don’t be afraid to tag them too. Best-case scenario you help keep multiple teen drivers safe on the road!
- Have the whole family make the Safe Driving Promise. Hang the signed Promises in a highly visible place in your home as a daily visual reminder of the importance of avoiding driving dangers.
- Give your teen a Free Ride card. This is a physical reminder that your teen driver can carry with them in their wallet, purse, pocket or phone case. It will show your teen that their safety comes first — and they can count on you to help keep them safe.
There’s one more powerful action you can take to drive home the importance of safe-driving skills: be a good role model every time you get behind the wheel. Show your teen that you not only talk about safe-driving skills, but also practice them every single time you drive.
In addition, if you and your teen driver are doing somewhere together, think about letting them take the wheel. Your teen still has a long way to go before they’re an expert driver, and every minute of practice and coaching they get can help. Be sure to compliment them when they practice their safe-driving skills and reward good driving with more opportunities to get behind the wheel.
Lastly, if your teen won’t listen, don’t feel bad about taking away their keys: It’s better to have a teen who’s mad at you than a teen who’s been injured (or worse) in a preventable car accident.
Looking for more ways to keep your teen safe on the road? Be sure to visit our collection of Teen Driver Safety Resources for Families for more helpful articles. And if you’d like to combine safety with savings, it’s worth checking out the Teen Safe Driver program. The free smartphone app monitors distracted driving and other risky behaviors to help your teen learn how to drive safer and smarter Plus you could earn a 10% discount on your American Family car insurance after your teen completes 3,000 miles or one year in the program!*
*Certain restrictions may apply, and the discount may vary or not apply to all coverage on a policy. Please talk to your agent for details. Once eligibility requirements are met, teenagers up to age 18 will receive a 10% discount and then from agent 19 until the renewal after they turn 21 they will receive a 5% discount.