Quick Tips for Keeping Your Teen Safe

As parents, we worry about the safety of our children and wonder what our role is in keeping our new drivers safe. Consider that three out of four teens say their parents would be the best influence in getting them to drive safely.

The following tips will guide you as you help your teen become a safe driver.

Set an Example

Practice what you preach - use safe driving behaviors for your child to model.

There are plenty of "teachable moments" for you to share each time you ride in the car together: 

  • Point out unsafe driving behaviors (i.e. talking on a cell phone, tailgating, etc.).
  • Teach your child that it's OK to tell passengers, "Please don't distract me while I'm driving."
  • Avoid distractions - pull over if you need to eat, use a portable electronic device or read a map. Explain the need to devote full attention to the road.
  • Make sure you and your passengers are wearing seatbelts before starting the car.
  • Point out the dangers of road rage and aggressive driving.
  • Do not drive when you are tired. If you are drowsy, pull over and take a break. Teach your teen that drowsy driving is as dangerous as intoxicated driving.
  • Teach your child to share the roadway with pedestrians and cyclists.
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Practice, Practice, Practice

The single most important factor in developing a safe driver is practice. It is recommended to devote at least 50 hours to teaching your teen to drive."Read more."

Practice, Practice, Practice

You don't need to have professional experience to teach your teenager to drive. It is more important for you to be there as a guide as he or she practices. You can monitor your son or daughter's progress, gradually moving on to more complex driving situations when he or she is ready.

If you or your child do not feel comfortable starting out on your own, consider some professional lessons to kick things off. You may even want to join your teen on the lesson to observe how the instructor teaches basic driving tasks.

Except for the first few hours devoted to helping your teen master the basics, it's best to practice in everyday situations. Have your teen drive with you everywhere you go together. These normal, day-to-day situations provide the variety needed to help your teen become a safe driver.

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You may want to use a Driving Practice Log to keep track weekly of how many hours you and your teen have driven together.You also may want to jot down skills practiced, those mastered, and new ones to work on. For an example of a driving observation sheet, click here. For a set by step practice driving guide, click here.

Understand and Enforce New Jersey's Driving Laws

Driving is a privilege — not a right! All drivers have important legal responsibilities. The New Jersey driving manual is the best resource for understanding the laws and regulations you and your teen need to know. This manual is available online or at any motor vehicle location. For more information on the Graduated Driver License Program, click here.

In addition the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) offers a Parent's Guide to Teaching Teens Safe Driving.

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Develop a Parent/Teen Driving Contract

To provide both you and your teen with a framework for setting and enforcing effective rules, it's a good idea to create a written Parent/Teen Driving Agreement. According to research, teens whose parents limit initial driving privileges (like driving at night or with other teenage passengers) are less likely to engage in risky driving, to get tickets, and have crashes.

To view samples of parent-teen agreements, click on these links: AAA, Allstate, Say Yes To Life, State Farm. Additionally, parent to parent and teen to teen contracts help create a network of support to keep teen drivers safe.

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Discuss Unsafe Driving Situations

Your new driver has a lot to learn — and you play an important role in his or her education! Discuss these "key points" often to help your teen stay safe on the road.

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Unsafe Driving Facts:

  • Speeding can be a deadly factor in a crash. Even driving 5-10mph over the speed limit can be dangerous under certain conditions.
  • Aggressive drivers can be dangerous. Teach your teen to get out of the way, avoid making eye contact, and let an aggressive driver pass.
  • Rain, fog, snow and ice call for special precautions. Remind your teen to slow down and keep at least twice the normal stopping distance. A wet road can cause skidding or hydroplaning.
  • Driving under the influence by anyone, any time, is illegal. Impaired driving is a violent crime that can transform a vehicle into a deadly weapon. Never get into a vehicle with someone who is impaired.
  • Drowsy driving is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and can be as fatal. Share the driving, take regular breaks or find a safe place to stop the vehicle.
  • Distractions can be deadly. They cause you to take your mind and eyes off of the road. Even if it's only for a few seconds, that's enough to prevent you from seeing a hazard and delay your reaction time
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Teach Your Teen to Anticipate Road Hazards

Even under the best conditions, driving has its risks. When special situations or hazards arise, paying attention to driving and making good decisions become even more vital. Teach your teen to anticipate potential problems and how to respond. Teach your teen to keep a margin of safety around the vehicle, look for a way out and develop a plan of action to avoid crashes. Take this interactive challenge with your teen to practice avoiding road hazards.

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Help Your Teen Take Control

You've practiced driving with your teen and you feel confident that he or she knows what they need to do to be a safe driver. But when it comes to the moment, and when they are with friends who may want them to make unsafe choices, it's harder for them tosaywhat they need to say anddowhat they need to do. Read more.

Teach them to "Find their Voice"; to speak up for what they know is safe and right.

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Help Your Teen Take Control

When if comes to dealing with friends, the most important thing your teen can do is to think ahead. Will their friends expect them to do something unsafe in their car? If so, what are they going to say to them? How will they act? Spend some time role-playing or practicing different unsafe situations that they might encounter and developing a plan of action to get out of the situations safely.

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Choose a Safe Car for Your Teen

Considering teens in New Jersey are involved in a crash every nine minutes, safety needs to be a priority whenchoosing the car your teen will drive. Late model, mid and full size cars are often the best options. Be sure the car is equipped with air bags, electronic stability control and automatic breaking systems. To check the safety ratings of a car, please visit the NHTSA and IIHS. Avoid cars that have a sporty image, as they can encourage teens to speed.

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Teach the Importance of Car Maintenance

It is important to keep a car in good working condition. Routine maintenance checks should be performed regularly. Click here for an overview of car maintenance. Road emergencies occur often, from getting a flat tire, to over heating an engine. If your car does break down, it is important to talk to your teen about what to do. Make sure the car is equipped with a roadside emergency kit, or consider a roadside emergency service.

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Know the Steps to Take After a Crash

You've spent so much time trying to help your teen avoid a crash, but it is also important to teach your new driver what to do if a crash does occur. Review this printable checklist with your teen and keep a copy in the vehicle.

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