Driving is a rite of passage, ushering in a sense of freedom and control that can be exhilarating. But both freedom and control can be fleeting, especially if — more frequently, when — new drivers lack the maturity or sensibility to rein in their impulses and desires.
To help protect new teen drivers, we’ve created a list of the top three things they should know before ever getting behind the wheel of a car. Hearing (and agreeing to abide by) these tips should be a nonnegotiable prerequisite for even touching a car key.
Here’s what your child needs to know:
Driving Can Kill You
Every year, approximately “1.3 million people die in car accidents worldwide — an average of 3,287 death per day.” Kids need to know that driving can kill them. It doesn’t matter how good of a driver they are; anyone can get into an accident, either as the driver at fault or as an innocent victim.
Just being on the road raises the risk of dying. Educate your child on the massive responsibility she has as a driver to be constantly aware and respectful of all cars’ incredible power.
Awareness is Critical
Drivers of all ages must remain aware at all times: of themselves and their surroundings, not to mention their companions on the road. Experience doesn’t diminish the need for continuous concentration.
On the contrary, no amount of skill can compensate for distracted driving with many accidents occurring simply because a driver forgets the dangers associated with driving and/or is overconfident.
Remind your child to regularly assess his or her mental state and level of fatigue before driving anywhere and to steer clear of drugs and alcohol that might impede his or her reactions and judgement, as well as mobile phones that frequently serve as dangerous distractions.
Furthermore, all kids need to perpetually scan their surroundings, looking for objects like signs or roadway barriers that could signal possible route changes and hazards;
Weather conditions that necessitate extra precautions; and, of course, other cars and drivers. Anticipation can help drivers mitigate likely dangers with informed action.
All Cars Are Not Created Equal
Just because your child knows how to drive your car, it doesn’t mean that he knows how to drive someone else’s car. Tell him that repeatedly. Many newer cars have safety components (such as lane assists, blindspot warnings, emergency braking systems, and cameras) that others don’t.
If your child is used to driving with the help of these features and expects them when he drives in a different car, he could be in danger. Even taking for granted a seat, headrest, and mirror positions can set him up for driving problems.
Let him know that it’s his job to learn about the safety features of every car he drives, and it’s his responsibility to adjust the car’s controls to fit his body each and every time he gets behind a steering wheel.