Sometimes it may not seem like it, but your teen develops many personal habits based on your behaviors. This includes your actions behind the wheel. Being a positive “driving” role-model can ensure the safety of your teen and help you avoid costly insurance premiums from tickets and accidents.

Take a moment to think about your driving habits. Are you an aggressive driver that speeds and tailgates? Do you roll through stop signs like the word “stop” is merely a suggestion? Have you recently yelled out the window to let someone know your opinion of his or her driving? Do you routinely engage in distracted driving? 

Teens view driving as a passage into adulthood. They can’t wait to get behind the wheel. In their eagerness, they sit in the passenger seat and absorb how drivers behave. 

Lectures about safe driving could easily be met with rolled eyes and waning attention. What you do behind the wheel, however, is a major influence for your teen’s driving habits. You want to make sure you are doing everything you could to be a good example. As a result, you may be saving your teen’s life.

Accidents Happen–Especially to Teens

As teenage drivers learn to navigate the roadways, they often make mistakes or bad decisions. Sometimes this means another driver blaring a horn. Others mistakes can result in damage to your family car, injuries, and even death. 

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2017, Florida drivers ages 20 and under were involved in almost 48,000 crashes involving no injuries. In addition, almost 16,000 involved both major, minor, and possible injuries. Sadly, 177 Florida teens lost their lives while behind the wheel. 

Closer to home, in Hillsborough County, the crash rate for teens seventeen and under increased by more than 8% in 2017. Drivers under 20 accounted for over 5,000 crashes with more than 1,300 injuries.  

Without a doubt, some of these crashes and injuries were easily preventable. Learned behaviors from older drivers may play a role.

Protect Your Teen by Setting a Good Example

Being mindful of your driving practices can be the difference between your teen arriving home safely or getting a distressed call from an accident scene. 

Here are some things you can do:

  • Don’t drive distracted: Checking your cell phone or eating your lunch on the go lets your teen know these behaviors are acceptable. Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous driving behaviors. Even checking a simple text can take your eyes off the road for the length of a football field. Keep your distractions to a minimum while driving.
  • Drive defensively: Aggressive driving causes accidents. Since your child graduated from a rear-facing car seat, he or she had the opportunity to observe everything you did behind the wheel. Speeding, tailgating, and frequent lane changes may seem easy to you, but to an untrained teen driver, these behaviors are risky–even deadly. Rule of thumb: drive the way your want your teen to drive.
  • Illustrate safe driving practices: As you are driving, teach your teen the importance of wearing a seatbelt, checking blind spots, safe following distances, and scanning the road and mirrors for possible hazards. 
  • Familiarize your teen with the vehicle: You’ve been driving for years. What you may see as common sense may be a whole new learning experience for your teen. Make sure he or she is well aware of the basics–turning on hazard lights, adjusting mirrors, and even changing a flat tire. 

Start the Discussion About Safe Driving Early

Don’t wait until your teen has his or her learner’s permit to talk about safe driving. Just about any trip can open the discussion about safe driving practices. For example, if it starts raining,  talk about how to use the windshield wipers and the importance of giving your car more braking distance. If you are driving near a truck, mention how important it is to stay out of the trucker’s blind spots and how these vehicles take longer to come to a complete stop.  

You can even make a game of it. Have your teen try to spot bad driving behaviors by other drivers. If he or she can identify a certain number (even if it is just one), go out for a treat.  While enjoying a simple indulgence, make a couple points about the importance of staying safe on the road.

Your teen’s safe driving starts with you. Adapting a safe, defensive driving lifestyle, may keep you from worrying every time your teen borrows the car keys. 

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