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License to drive

Laura Willard is a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting. She's a wife and an adoptive mom to two kids. Motherhood is the best job she never knew she wanted so much until she had it...

Talking to teens about driving

There’s no doubt about it: Most teens consider getting their driver’s license a rite of passage. Equally certain: The stress and anxiety for parents knowing their 16-year-old is now behind the wheel. While we as parents know the gravity of the responsibility, a teenager’s lack of life experience and less mature brain can often affect the choices she makes and actions she takes while behind the wheel. Here are a few tips to help you talk to your teen about responsible driving.

Teen driver

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old are responsible for the highest proportion of fatal car crashes caused by distraction. If your teen is about to get her driver's license, what can you do to help your child understand that this new freedom is also a huge responsibility? Read on for expert advice.

Expert Tips

1Use reason

Nobody knows your teen like you do, and that means that you know best whether she will be swayed at all by your advice or she'll roll your eyes as you walk away. However, a good place to begin the discussion when you talk to your teen about driving is starting with the seriousness of getting behind the wheel.

Talk openly to your teen about driving, what can happen if she doesn't pay attention, texts or drives while intoxicated. Many parents worry that their teen might find themselves in a situation involving alcohol and a vehicle. Lauren Fix, also known as The Car Coach, is an automotive expert who offers automotive safety advice. She says that when her two teens began driving, she had discussions with them about how to handle precarious situations. Both of her children had a "safety code" — something they could text to their mom to indicate they needed an "out." If Lauren received a call or text with that code, she would find a reason to go pick up her teen, no questions asked. Her teens knew they could avoid social embarrassment if they were in a situation where it was unsafe to drive — all of the responsibility fell on Mom — and there wouldn't be any consequences.

2Use modeling

Lauren suggests you look around next time you're driving. Who is doing all the texting? Unfortunately, it's not just teenagers who are texting and driving. Adults often text and drive, even though it is an incredibly dangerous activity that is illegal in many states. Lauren says that this is not a "Do as I say, not as I do" issue. You need to live your rules. If you do, you have a better chance of having a responsible teen driver.

3Use technology

Lauren suggests an array of tools to monitor or control your teen's driving activities. Devices such as Zoombak, a GPS system that allows you to set up alerts and receive texts and emails about your vehicle's location, can help you know where your teen is. Others allow you to track speed and some, such as Ford's MyKey, even allow you to program maximum speeds and restrict radio usage if, for example, the driver's seat belt isn't fastened. Finally, there are programs, including DriveSafe Software, that actually prevent texting while driving.

While some parents might not be comfortable with this type of monitoring, Lauren says that her teens always knew that she was using tracking devices and that in her house, the rules were clear. Her profession makes her all too familiar with the consequences of unsafe driving behavior.

However you approach it, the bottom line is that simply handing your teenager a set of car keys and hoping for the best is not only a bad idea, it could be deadly. Don't wait — talk to your teen about responsible driving.

More tips for parents of teens

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