Column: Parental role in teaching adolescents to drive crucial

Published 2:17 pm Saturday, May 31, 2008

Maryanne Law, Families First


Is it reasonable for parents to place restrictions on young drivers?

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Few relationships in human behavior are as simple and clear as that between age and crash involvement. Car crashes decrease with age and driving experience.

The problem is worst among 16-year-olds, who have the most limited driving experience and an immaturity that often results in risk-taking behind the wheel. Minnesota Department of Public Safety statistics show that the top six driving risk factors for teens are:

Inattentiveness &8212; driver inattention/distraction is the most common contributing factor in multiple vehicle crashes.

Cell phone use equates to .08 blood alcohol concentration impairment when driving.

Excessive speed &8212; illegal/unsafe speed is the most common contributing factor in single vehicle crashes for drivers.

Teens particularly have difficulty adjusting speed to driving conditions.

Failure to wear a safety belt &8212; properly wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger occupants by 45 percent in a car and 60 percent in a light truck.

Fatigue &8212; a person who has been awake for 24 hours experiences impairment nearly equal to a blood alcohol concentration of .10 percent.

(Teens often don&8217;t get enough sleep.)

Not checking traffic before pulling out &8212; most crashes involving teens occur at intersections because of their inexperience judging distance and speed.

Driving with other teens &8212; the presence of passengers strongly increases crash risk.

For teen drivers, the more passengers the greater the risk.

Studies show that new drivers who are supervised have very few crashes.

Developing necessary skills for safe driving is a complex task and can only be learned after many hours of practice. Driver&8217;s education is a first step, but a parent&8217;s role in teaching adolescents to drive is crucial. It&8217;s smart parenting to require adolescents to go through a step-by step process to earn their driving privileges. Here are some important tips:

Require safety belt use at all times.

Set a good example as an adult driver.

Expose your teen to different driving conditions under your supervision, including wet roads, snow, highways, and night driving.

Set a limit on the number of passengers in the car when your teen drives.

Choose vehicles for safety, not image.

Repeat again and again the dangers and legal consequences of driving impaired by alcohol.

If convicted of driving with any alcohol in their system, the license of those under 21 can be suspended for 30 days.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/L&8217;nea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528.

For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599.

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Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.