by Timothy C. Smith
The single most dangerous teens will probably ever do is drive a car. Car crashes kill more teens than drugs, suicide, alcohol and guns combined. Here are 10 effective ways to help crashproof your kids:
1. Commit the time to helping them become safer, smarter drivers. Teens typically get 3-6 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction in driver education programs, and it takes 30-50 hours of experience just to function well in basic traffic situations. You should plan on at least 50 hours with them over a 6 to 12 month period.
2. Work with your teen in increasingly complex and varied driving environments as they show confidence and competence, in this order: parking lots, residential streets, country roads, freeways and finally, busy urban streets.
3. Teach them the proper response to the following hazardous driving situations: rain, ice, snow, fog, tire blow-out and loss of power steering or brakes.
4. Eliminate or reduce the most dangerous driving distractions. Using a cell phone while driving is the equivalent of having a .08 blood alcohol level. Each teen passenger of a teen driver increases the crash risk by 50%.
5. Teach your teen how to emergency brake and to maintain a 4 second following distance from cars in front of them.
6. Improve their visual scanning skills by teaching them to focus 2 to 3 times further down the road than they normally do, and work to double their peripheral vision.
7. Sign a Crashproof Contract outlining restrictions, privileges and responsibilities associated with their use of a car, with specific rewards and penalties for attaining or violating these agreements.
8. Employ education, sensible restrictions and good role modeling to reduce your teen’s risk of speeding, drinking and becoming a victim of road rage.
9. Put yourself in their shoes. For part of your time driving together, get behind the wheel and have your teen make suggestions and comments about your driving.
10. Instill a defensive driving mindset in your teen, where they expect others to make mistakes and violate traffic laws and are prepared to deal with it when they do.
Timothy C. Smith is a St. Charles, IL based certified driving instructor, licensed SCCA racer, father of three teens and award-winning author of Crashproof Your Kids: Make Your Teen a Safer, Smarter Driver. Visit at www.crashproofyourkids.com.