I don’t know about you, but I think that is a scary statement! The National Safety Council indicates that from Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2012, nearly 1,000 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers! Additionally, car accidents is the leading cause of death for teenagers, accounting for over one-third of all deaths (see CDC).
Why do car accidents increase for teenagers in the summer? According to The National Safety Council,
- Summer driving is used more to see friends than to drive to school or work.
- Teens often drive their friends around more in the summer.
- Teens may stay out later at night because there is no school, and crash risk increases at night.
- With nicer weather and clearer conditions, teens may tend to speed.
- There are more drivers on the road in the summer.
The National Safety Council recommends, “While state laws allow teens to drive, parents have the opportunity and the obligation to establish ground rules and expected behaviors for safe driving. Parental engagement improves the odds for young drivers returning home over the next 100 days.”
Um, basically what I’m getting out of this is watch your children! Don’t give them the keys freely. Keep them busy in the summer. I think one of the best ways to keep your children out of trouble and/or safe is to keep them busy. They won’t even realize what you are doing. My oldest is not driving yet. Thank goodness! But I am still very interested in these findings because I will have children who will be driving one day. I find that as my children get older, the more I become a taxi driver, but I don’t regret it because my children are kept busy and are exhausted by the end of the day (leaving little room to get into trouble). My husband and I try to put our children in at least one sports and one music activity. Hopefully, this helps them to be well rounded. We don’t expect our children to be the best athlete or musician/singer, but each of these areas teaches them different life lessons. For example, competing in sports has taught my children the importance of being on time to something (which can carry over to work one day) and to work as a team. My younger two children play the piano. This has helped them to pay attention and to use different areas of their brains. There are more benefits, but it is not the purpose of this post.
As a parent with young children, I thought it was so important to be there for them for the first five years of their lives (before they really started school). As my kids got older, I realized that parenting really doesn’t “lighten” up after they are in school. They become more independent and gain more freedom. This can be scary. We can’t keep our children in bubbles, but we can let them explore the world within boundaries that will keep them safe.
Here are some tips I’m hoping to go by when my children start driving:
- Ultimately, before you hand your keys over to your teenager, set rules and consequences (eg., curfew, cleanliness of the car, number of friends allowed in the car, etc.). Follow through with the consequences. I read a book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The author of the book, Stephen Covey, indicated that before his children started driving, he created a contract with them which included expectations from the child and the parents ahead of time with consequences. He indicated that it really helped to enforce ground rules and made it easier to administer consequences.
- Keep your children busy with wholesome activities. This will limit their goofing around time.
- Know where your kids are going at ALL times. When they are an adult, they can go wherever they want. As a teenager, they still don’t completely understand when they may put themselves in harm’s way.
- Talk to your children often. Keep the lines of communication open.
Let’s keep our teens safe. I’m hoping to try what I put in here on my children. If you have any other suggestions that worked for you, I would love to hear them!