Your child may have passed his driving test without a hitch — but the real challenges lie ahead. The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association (RMIIA) reports that auto accidents account for a third of all deaths of U.S. teens, making it the number one cause of death within this age group. While simple inexperience behind the wheel contributes to these troubling numbers, other statistics point to carelessness.
More than half of all teen driving fatalities took place on the weekend in 2010, according to the RMIIA, indicating alcohol abuse as a possible factor. Both drivers and passengers in this age group are also the most likely to neglect buckling up. You must assume that your kids, no matter how well trained in basic driving skills, will still act like kids even when behind the wheel. Take steps to set some rules of the road and make sure the younger drivers in your family stick to them.
Creating a Family Driving Contract
A family driving contract makes it crystal clear which behaviors will enable teen drivers to earn, maintain or even expand their driving privileges by demonstrating their maturity and sense of responsibility behind the wheel. There’s no need to limit the contract only to teenagers. Include any young adult drivers if you own and maintain the vehicles they drive. Address the following issues in the contract as a minimum:
- Numbers of passengers: Specify the maximum number of passengers your teen can transport at any given time. This is significant because 59 percent of all teens who die in auto accidents were driven by a fellow teen, and the risk of accident jumps with each additional passenger, according to RMIIA.
- Seat belts: Insist that each passenger (and of course the driver) agree to use the supplied seat belts.
- Driving hours: Drive Alive warns that most accidents occur between 9 p.m. and midnight. Specifying which days and hours your teenager can drive can help limit his exposure to dangerous nighttime or weekend driving conditions. Make your teen drivers comply with specified check-ins and curfews, both for their safety and for your peace of mind.
- Distracted driving: Distracted driving accounted accounts directly for 18 percent of all teen traffic deaths, according to the RMIIA. Add rules to your contract that prohibit texting, cellphone use, makeup application, eating or other distracting activities while driving. Include strict sanctions for drunk driving, another potentially fatal distraction no teenager can afford.
- Insurance plans, payments and tickets: Include an explanation of how parents and teens divide the costs of owning and operating the vehicle. Add a clause requiring adherence to all traffic laws, with punishments ranging from withholding or privileges to shouldering the payment for a traffic ticket.
Rewards for Good Behavior: The Teen Safe Driver Program
According to its site, auto insurance by StateFarm.com has a Teen Safe Driver Program. This program, if offered in your state, provides insurance discounts for teen drivers follow the necessary steps and maintain a sterling safety record. This kind of program can help your children’s safety as they take to the road.