Keeping teens safe — what can parents do?

Last week’s “Safety on the Roads” column was about keeping teen drivers safe, listing the characteristics of teen drivers that are contributing factors in their above-normal crash rate, and explaining how graduated licensing was so important toward teen safety. This week we will talk about what parents can do to foster the safety of their new teen drivers.

No matter what the graduated licensing laws are, parents can establish effective rules for their new teen driver. Young people tend to overestimate their skills and underestimate their vulnerabilities. Peers are influential, but parents have more influence than is credited to them. Parents should become familiar with the restrictions for new drivers and feel free to set tougher rules. To review state laws, go to

Parents of soon-to-be new drivers should review the graduated licensing laws for New York state.

No matter what the laws allow, parents should restrict night driving – about 40 percent of fatal crashes occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Consider setting an early curfew, even if your state has a later one. Furthermore, parents should restrict teenage passengers, especially multiple teens, all the time, no matter what the law allows.

Parents should supervise practice driving. Plan a series of practice sessions in a variety of situations, including night driving. Give beginners time to work up to challenges like driving in heavy traffic, on freeways, or in snow and rain. I always advise having another responsible adult supervise your teenage driver some of the time so he/she can pick up on possible bad habits you have imparted to your child, or perhaps on traffic laws you might not be aware of.

Require safety belt use -?don’t assume your teen will buckle up when driving alone or with peers. Also insist all passengers, including anyone in the rear seat, is buckled up before moving the vehicle.

Prohibit driving after drinking alcohol. Make it clear that it is illegal and dangerous to drive after drinking alcohol or using any other drug.

Consider a monitoring device. Various types of in-vehicle devices are available to parents who want to monitor their teens’ driving. These systems flag risky behavior such as speeding, sudden braking, abrupt acceleration and non-use of seat belts.

Choose vehicles with safety in mind. Teens should drive vehicles that reduce their chances of crashing in the first place and then protect them from injury in case they crash. (See previous “Safety on the Roads” column on choosing a safe vehicle). To see how a particular vehicle measures up, go to for more information.

Lastly, be a role model. New drivers learn a lot by example, so practice safe driving yourself. Teenagers who have crashes and violations often have parents with similar driving habits. Don’t be that parent!

The Traffic Safety Board thanks the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for providing much of the above information. Hopefully it will make a difference to parents and teens that take the time to read and follow this vital advice, courtesy of the IIHS.

For more information from the IIHS, go to For more articles on Vehicle and Traffic Law and traffic safety, visit the Traffic Safety Board’s website at and click on the Traffic Safety Board from the pull-down menu under departments. “Like” us on Facebook as well.