It’s been said that the best substitute for experience is being 16.

If you have a teen in the house, you know the truth of this statement—and how unnerving it is when kids get behind the wheel of a car, just certain of their driving prowess.

That’s because adults are well aware of the statistics. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, mile for mile, teens are involved in three times as many fatal crashes as all other drivers, and traffic accidents are the leading cause of death in this age group.

However—and here’s the important point to remember—most teen accidents are preventable, and there are proven ways to help young drivers become safer drivers.

To this end, May is Global Youth Traffic Safety Month,™ which presents a wonderful opportunity to reinforce important safety lessons with our kids. Here are a few reminders:

  • Don’t assume the driver’s ed teacher taught your child everything needed to be a good driver.
  • Kid’s mimic their parent’s behavior, so your good habits, as well as your bad habits, are likely to be reflected by your son or daughter. If you’re guilty of speeding, rolling through stop signs or using the phone when driving, admit your mistakes and change your habits. It can prove particularly powerful to ask to be reminded when you slip back into bad habits too.
  • Finish the supervised driving hours that were required for getting a license if you fudged the records initially. Most states require a minimum of 30 hours, and although life is hectic, those guidelines are in place for an important reason.
  • Don’t be afraid to set ground rules, and don’t release the keys until you feel new safety habits have been mastered. It’s wise to limit night driving and the number of passengers—don’t feel guilty for doing so, and remind your teen that driving is a privilege to be earned.
  • Talk honestly about drinking or drug use and driving. Decide how you should handle a variety of situations as a family. What if your child or a friend is impaired? How can they contact you? What are the consequences of their decisions, both positive and negative?
  • Drive common routes in your area and point out hazards or share your own stories of dangerous incidents that have happened near home. If there’s a certain corner or intersection that is particularly challenging, come up with alternate routes that you’d prefer your teen use.

You may also want to visit the National Road Safety Foundation website, where you’ll find free videos and other resources about safe driving behavior, including traffic safety programs on distracted driving, speed and aggression, impaired driving, drowsy driving, driver proficiency, pedestrian safety and a host of other safety issues. All of these resources are available free-of-charge to individuals, community groups, schools, police and traffic safety advocates.

Now is the time to engage our teens. Don’t forget that summer is nearly upon us, and kids are eager to get out on the road with their friends, particularly as COVID restrictions are eased. Let’s work together to keep our kids and communities safe!

Click the button to download a supplemental resource offering teen driver safety tips.

Download the PDF