As Teen Driver Safety week concludes, we are reminded of how much executive capacity we expect from teenage drivers. A recent KidsSafe Worldwide study, sponsored in part by General Motors Foundation, found that the number one killer of teens is motor vehicle crashes, and more importantly, one in four teens surveyed said they don’t use seat belts, and that those who don’t use seat belts also say they are likely to text while driving.
Jenny Pfister and her dad, Michael Fitzpatrick, own and operate AllStars Driving School in Sacramento. They have observed that the most important thing a parent can do to train their teens to be safe drivers is to model your own commitment to safety from behind the wheel and be patient with your new driver. “First of all when it comes to helping our children learn to drive, we believe patience is everything. We try to nurture trust,” Fitzpatrick said, “The young driver must believe we care about them (even more than our shiny cars), and that we will keep them safe with us while they learn.”
As a mother of three under the age of eight, Pfister encourages parents to be the example. “We have to mirror the behaviors we desire,” she said. “Statistically, the number one cause of teen deaths is distracted driving. We have to change this; this is not ok. I want to know that the safe habits I’ve taught my daughter are being taught to all of the other teens out on the road as well.”
AllStars’ tips for parents of teen drivers
- Be the example. Use a blue tooth or ear piece if we absolutely have to be on the phone while driving. Do not answer texts while behind the wheel.
- Conversation. It’s important for parents to talk about the risks and dangers associated with the distractions that the mobile device can cause.
- Practice defensive driving. Being defensive drivers ourselves is absolutely vital in helping our teen drivers to become successful and safe adult drivers. It’s the unexpected situations that are the scariest. Unexpected conditions coupled with distractions equals disaster.
- Instruction and encouragement. While your teen is driving, take time with steering, braking, and lane changing. Be quick to give a pat on the back, but don’t move on to the next lesson until mastering each one. We must try to remember what it was like for us when we first began piloting a multi-ton vehicle, the elementary maneuvers we take for granted are new to them and can be quite daunting.