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Teen-Driving Dilemma: Parents Can Help Improve Safety


As the new year approaches, a new crop of teen drivers will hit the streets. How can parents keep them safe behind the wheel? Let us count the ways.

Today’s teen drivers live in a dramatically different world than their fathers and mothers did when they first put the pedal to the metal. Awareness campaigns, driving contracts, in-vehicle technology and modern drivers-education classes are effecting change on the road and making children better, safer operators.

Such social advancement is important because the No. 1 threat to teens behind the wheel is when another teen is in the same vehicle, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The fact is, about 3,000 teens lose their lives every year in car crashes,” the centers’ Web site states. “That’s eight teens a day too many. The main cause? Driver inexperience.”

The CDC’s answer to that scary scenario is Parents Are the Key. The awareness campaign educates adults on the risks of teen driving by identifying eight “danger zones” that, when entered, lead to car crashes. They are: 1) driver inexperience; 2) driving with other teens; 3) driving at night; 4) not buckling up; 5) distracted driving; 6) drowsy driving; 7) reckless driving; and 8) driving while impaired.

Teen and Parent

“Make sure your young driver is aware of the leading causes of teen crashes,” the CDC warns. “Then use a parent-teen driving agreement to put rules in place that will help your teen stay safe.”

Several of the nation’s top automobile insurers provide similar agreements on their Web sites – all with the goal of lowering the CDC’s teen-driving statistic. Allstate Foundation’s Parent-Teen Agreement can be customized by state.

“Teens want to know what is expected of them,” the company’s Web site explains. “Parents and teens can use this template agreement to come up with mutually agreed-upon rules of the road before handing over the keys to the car.”

In terms of in-vehicle technology, American automakers Ford Motor Company and General Motors each have innovative products that put parents in the driver’s seat – virtually. Ford’s MyKey can program a second key with audible reminders and automatic restrictions. For example, if your teen doesn’t buckle up, the Belt-Minder feature chimes for six seconds, every 30 seconds, until he or she does. MyKey also can limit traveling speeds to 80 miles per hour or less and sound-system volume to 44 percent.

GM’s OnStar Family Link enables parents to track vehicle locations and opt to receive alerts via email or text message. The cost per month is $3.99.

Modern drivers-education classes are available in most communities and schools, as well as online. GEICO devotes an entire microsite to teen driving. is filled with stories, tips, videos and information about state driving laws. State Farm’s “Teaching a Teen to Drive” Web site also is a wealth of information.

“A teen driver is most likely to crash in the first six to 12 months after receiving a license,” State Farm warns. “That’s why it’s wise to increase driving privileges gradually. Work together with your teen to set clear rules for driving without adult supervision. Be sure to discuss how your teen can demonstrate experience and maturity to earn new privileges. Let him or her know the consequences of not following the rules.”

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