Guidelines for Parents of New Drivers
Young drivers out-number, out-travel, out-crash and die more frequently in crashes than any other group of drivers. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to prevent this right now.
Your Involvement is the Key
It’s a fact; when parents get directly involved in helping their teens to develop safe, responsible driving skills, something amazing happens. The possibility for crashes, injuries, and deaths decreases. And it keeps going down even after your teen is licensed – as long as you continue to offer guidance and supervision. So as a parent, your influence can literally be a lifesaver – both your teen’s life and the lives of other drivers.
Why Rookie Drivers are at Risk
- Operating a complex motor vehicle is a brand-new experience for teens.
- Their search, scan and reaction abilities are much less developed.
- They see hazards as less dangerous than they really are.
- Teens like to drive with other teens, which can be distracting and lead to thrill seeking.
What You Can Do
- Set a Good Example
Your young driver will copy your driving habits. If you don’t obey traffic laws, buckle up, keep your cool in traffic, drive speed limits, or stay off the cell phone behind the wheel, they won’t either.
- Be a Teacher
Teach your new drivers about driving and the technology behind it. Show them the proper sitting distance from a steering wheel or an airbag. Discuss the differences in handling four-wheel drive, front-wheel drive, and rear-wheel drive vehicles. Demonstrate how anti-lock braking systems (ABS) work. Point out what to look for – traffic signs, bad drivers, emergencies, and more, as you drive with them.
- Supervise Practice Driving
Give your teen as much supervised practice as possible on different roads, in different weather, and in all kinds of driving conditions – even after your teen receives a license.
- Monitor and Restrict
Parents who control driving privileges – when, how often, and under what conditions – have safer teen drivers. Studies show that teens are less likely to take risks if schoolwork and grades are monitored, ground rules are established, and parental relationships with friends are good. On the other hand, teens with lenient parental driving restrictions are more likely to have more traffic violations and crashes.
- Use a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement
A formal agreement between you and your teen should cover all driving rules and agreements, plus the consequences for breaking those rules. It should spell out everything from vehicle usage, financial responsibility, and geographic driving limits to school grades, number of passengers, and sanctions for alcohol or drug use and crashes. (Crossroads – The Maryland Parent-Teen Driving Agreement is available from the MVA.)
- Reduce Risks
Understand the possible risks that may tempt your young driver. Driving with other teen passengers, driving at night, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, speeding, and being inattentive are all dangerous actions that should be avoided.
- Think Safety First
While it may be less costly to purchase an old “clunker” for your young driver, your teen’s safety should be your first concern. Consider purchasing a new or used vehicle with good safety features – side impact as well as dashboard and steering wheel air bags, automatic door locks, and anti-lock braking system, traction control devices, and other technological improvements.
- Don’t Rush It
Parents often rush the licensing process for their teens to free up their own time – and to encourage their teens to run errands for them. However, driver education alone does not give a young driver the necessary experience behind the wheel. Remember – inexperience is the number one contributing factor to unsafe and potentially hazardous driving situations.
Get with the Program
As of July 1999, the State of Maryland adopted a new graduated licensing system that lets young drivers gradually move up through three levels of licensing: first a Learner's Permit, then a Provisional License, and then a full Driver's License.
Remember, driver education only teaches fundamental skills and knowledge. Parents, guardians and supervising drivers must do their part.
Statistics You Can Stop
- One in five teenage drivers has a crash in their first year of driving.
- Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15 – 20 year olds, accounting for more than 40 percent of fatalities.
- 3,608 drivers 15 – 20 years old were killed in 2001; in the last decade, more than 68,000 teens have died in crashes.
- Nearly half of the fatal crashes involving 16-year old drivers were single vehicle crashes.
- Twenty-five percent of drivers 15 – 20 years old who were killed in crashes in 2001 were considered intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater.
- The fatality rate for teenage drivers is about four times as high as the rate for drivers 25 to 69 years of age.
- For the teenage driver, the presence of one passenger almost doubles the risk of a fatal crash, compared to driving alone. With two or more passengers, the fatal crash risk is five times as high as driving alone.
Source: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Statistics are nationwide.
Get Involved. Stay Involved.
The best person to teach your teen how to become a safe, responsible driver is you. Your wisdom, your guidance, and your continued involvement will not only make a big difference, it could save lives. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration is working with drivers to make sharing the road safer for everyone – especially our new drivers.