Easy ways to promote teen safety while driving

The statistics are enough to make any parent wince: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more teenagers die in motor vehicle accidents than from any other cause. With that in mind, you can protect your child if you understand why the statistics are so high and take steps to make sure your family doesn't contribute to them.

Behind the statistics

Teenagers are at a disadvantage behind the wheel because they're not experienced drivers and may have a limited concept of danger. Not only do they drive without seat belts more than any other age group, they're more likely to operate cellphones while driving. The CDC indicates that young males in particular tend to speed, tailgate, and drink and drive. Your first challenge is to understand these statistics so you can focus your efforts on helping your teenager resist them as well.

Enlist the help of experts

Most states require teens to take driver education classes, either in school or privately. Teens usually start out with learner's permits and operate vehicles under supervision until they earn full-fledged driver's licenses. Enroll your child one of these courses, even if a class is not required by your state. Not only are teens less likely to roll their eyes at third-party instructors than at their parents, but a class may qualify your teen for a discount on auto insurance.

Set an example

Create a checklist for safe-driving practices your young driver must follow before he turns the key in the ignition. The headlights should be turned on regardless of the weather or time of day. Music should be turned off or turned low to minimize distractions. Have him hand over his cellphone, and then fasten your seat belts - both of you.

This training can begin long before you hand the car keys to your teen for the first time. If your children watch your safe driving behaviors, they are likely to mimic them when their time comes.

Make technology work for you

Eventually your teen is going drive on his own. This doesn't mean you have to relinquish all control. Some popular apps can serve as your eyes and ears when you're left behind.

Apps such as Sprint's Driver First and AT&T's DriveMode give parents some control over the calling and texting behaviors of their teens. Other apps, such as Canary for Android and iOS phones, notify parents when a teen texts, calls, or exceeds the speed limit while on the road.

Set consequences

After you impart your safe-driving wisdom, explain the consequences to your teen for breaking the safe-driving rules. Draft a parent-teen driving contract or agreement listing the precautions you expect him to take and the results he can expect if he fails to comply. Depending on the severity of the infraction, you might take his keys or cellphone. As with all things parenting, stick to your guns.

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