Tips for Parents to Reduce Teen Driver Crashes

Tips for Parents to Reduce Teen Driver Crashes

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Updated on May 25, 2011

What's the biggest cause of death in teenagers? Not suicide, despite the press. Not AIDS. Surprisingly, it's cars. Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for 16- to 20-year-olds, accounting for close to 5,500 fatalities and 450,000 injuries a year.

There's a reason it's so expensive to insure a teenager. Teens are involved in crashes more than four times as often as 30- to 69-year-olds. It's not just speeding and irresponsible behavior like drinking and driving – crashes are also caused by inexperience, inadequate practice time and judgment errors.

It's not exactly a health issue, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has weighed in with a list of ways that parents can help their teens be better drivers:

  1. Give permission for them to obtain a license.
  2. Control access to the vehicle.
  3. Set family restrictions, and punishments for infractions.
  4. Assure that the vehicle is safe.
  5. Help them learn by enrolling them in a driving school or providing lessons yourself.
  6. Serve as a role model for safe driving.

The AAP also encourages parents to create a written contract that helps define what they're allowed to do, based on the teenager's age, maturity, and degree of driving experience. Have them sign a promise not to drink and drive, not to get into the car with someone else who is drinking, or anything else you feel is vital to their safety. At a minimum, parents should place restrictions on nighttime driving and limits on the number of teen passengers.

Driving is a serious responsibility, so don't be a softie. Start strict, the AAP advises – you can relax the rules as your teen becomes older and more experienced.

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