New drivers get in accidents — a lot of them. In fact, the risk of motor vehicle crashes is higher among teenagers ages 16-19 than among any other age group. But what you may not realize is that parents play a big role in keeping teens safe behind the wheel. Here are two important ways parents can help their teenagers drive safely:
Insist on total focus. Make sure your teenager understands that any behind-the-wheel activity other than driving can dramatically increase the odds of an accident. Insist that your teen ignore their phone and any incoming messages while driving. (There are even apps that can help you make sure your teens aren’t texting or talking while driving.) When driving with a teen, teach them to keep an eye out for distractions, like a mattress flying out of the back of a pickup truck or an animal darting out into the road. On the road, a lot can go wrong, so paying constant attention to the task at hand is key to reaching your destination safely. Make sure your teen knows that driving at night, while you’re in a rush or when you’re sleepy can dramatically increase your odds of an accident.
Teach the 3- to 4-second rule. A big cause of accidents among young adults involves driving too close to other vehicles and tailgating. Make sure your teenager knows to stay at least 3 to 4 seconds behind the car in front of them — increasing the amount of time for higher speeds and weather conditions. Here’s how the 3-second rule works: Pick a roadside marker such as a road sign or tree and as soon as the vehicle ahead of you passes that marker, start counting — 1-1,000; 2-1,000; 3-1,000. If it doesn’t take at least three seconds to pass the same spot, you’re following too closely. Four seconds is even better.
Since the greatest chance of a collision is in front of you, this is an important driving rule. Year after year, rear-end collisions are the most common accidents between vehicles. Following at a safe distance allows your teen ample time to respond to what’s going on ahead of them.