Parenting a Teen Driver

By Tara Bitzan

Parenting a Teen Driver

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MN Teen Crash Facts 2011 (ages 15-19) 

  • 39 died in auto accidents 3,921 were injured in auto accidents
  • Teens are involved in 15 percent of all auto fatalities
  • Top crash contributors: inattention, failure to yield, speeding
  • Most dangerous month was July
  • Most dangerous time was 3 to 6 p.m.

Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teens ages 15-19. According to  experts, parents play a key role in preventing such tragedies. Here are things you can do to try to keep your child and others safe on the roads.

Be a good role model. Your children are watching you from infancy on. Model good driving habits every time you drive. Drive cautiously, don’t speed, don’t tailgate, don’t drive distractedly and ALWAYS wear your seat belt.

Don’t skimp on education. A Minnesota teen can begin driver’s ed. at 15. Don’t sign up until they are mature enough to handle it. Once they have a learner’s permit, they need six hours of behind-the-wheel training with an instructor and at least 30 hours driving with a licensed adult. Keep track and make sure to meet or exceed that. If they struggle
or are uncomfortable with certain areas, have them practice these. It’s easy to leave the teaching to the instructor and get too busy to make sure your child gets quality drive time.
Remind yourself of the statistics and make time.

Set and enforce rules. Once a child passes the license test, the parent’s most important work begins. Set rules about when they can drive, where they can go, who is allowed to ride with them. Set clear consequences for breaking rules or driving laws and follow through. It could be the key to ensuring your child isn’t a statistic.

Talk openly. Assure them your rules aren’t because you don’t trust them. Scientists found that areas of the brain involved in making judgments/decisions are not fully developed
until age 25. Simply put, teens are not capable of making the same judgments/decisions as adults. Explaining this can help them understand they are at higher risk and may bring them on-board with your precautionary attitude.

Promote a healthy lifestyle. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, overloaded schedules and stress are contributing factors to accidents. If your child had a strenuous week or hasn’t been getting adequate sleep, give them a ride until things settle down. The inconvenience is a small price to pay to keep your child safe.

Make a pledge.

The Douglas County Safe Communities Coalition sponsors a Teen-Parent Distracted Driving Event in Alexandria. It’s required that a parent attend with their teen, who can be a pre-driver, new driver or teen who has been driving. The goal is to make teens and parents aware of the dangers associated with driving, and pledge to be safer drivers. For
information, visit or call Crystal Hoepner, program  coordinator, at (320) 762-3054.

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