One of the scariest times for many parents is when they have to teach their teenager how to drive. We all want peace of mind knowing that our children are safe on the roads when they venture out and setting our teens up for success as a new driver is one of the most important jobs we can do as parents. Nicole McGarity, a member of our AAA Public Affairs Team who also serves as a Consultant for our Traffic Safety Programs, offers her expertise to help parents navigate these challenging waters, or should we say, roads, that lie ahead. Here’s her expert advice on this important subject.
Q: What tips do you have for parents who are teaching their teen to drive?
McGarity: The most important advice we give to parents of new teen drivers is to be actively involved in the learning-to-drive experience. With motor vehicle crashes being a leading cause of death for U.S. teens according to the CDC, open communication is key to keeping them safe. Share insights from your years of driving and set clear expectations with your teen about safety on the road. A Parent-Teen Driving Agreement is a good way to set clear boundaries and help them have accountability behind the wheel. Teens value the opinions of their parents, even if it doesn’t always seem like it, and they will remember the knowledge you share – so talks with them should focus on their safety.
Also make sure to be a good role model behind the wheel by staying off your cell phone and obeying all traffic laws. It is not enough to tell them how to be safe as a driver, you must show them!
Q: What safety tips do you want to share with teens?
McGarity: The independence that comes with first getting a driver’s license is exciting! Every teen should feel a sense of accomplishment when they achieve this milestone, but remember that being a safe driver is also their responsibility. Focus on safety by always wearing your seat belt, and require all passengers to buckle up as well. In the first year of driving, teens should limit the amount of teen passengers allowed in their vehicle as AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research found that fatality rates increase dramatically (more than 50 percent) when a teen drives with teen passengers.
Another important safety precaution to take is to put your cell phone away when driving to avoid the temptation of distracted driving. You may think it is just a quick call, text, or social media post, but the reality is that a teen’s chance of crashing increases by 400 percent when on their phone.
Q: If they find themselves in trouble on the road, what should they do?
McGarity: Prevention is key to avoiding trouble on the road, so make sure that the vehicle is in good operating condition and well-maintained before getting behind the wheel. Consider having a roadside membership plan that offers the peace of mind for you and your parents that help will be there when you need it. AAA Carolinas offers teen traffic safety and educational resources to help create safe driving habits for life.
Sometimes even the most prepared driver ends up with car trouble and needs to act quickly to keep everyone safe. At the first sign that there is a vehicle issue, slow down and safely move off the roadway as far as possible from traffic, angling your wheels away from the road. Turn on your hazard lights to alert other drivers and do not leave the vehicle unless you are well out of the road and can move to a safe location away from other drivers. Keep a list of emergency contacts in the glove compartment to call for assistance. However, if you are in the middle of the roadway blocking traffic, call 911. Let the operator know that you are blocking traffic so they can send an officer to direct traffic immediately.