Research Shows Parents Can Do More to Help Teens Learn to Drive Safely

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Young drivers are at the highest risk of car accidents due to their inexperience. And the only way to reduce that risk is for them to gain more experience behind the wheel. However, not all experience is created equal.

Most states have strict rules about how many hours teens need to practice driving with a parent or other licensed driver prior to obtaining a driver’s license. However, parents aren’t given instructions on how to teach teens to drive and unfortunately, many teens aren’t gaining all the skills they need before getting their driver’s license.

Research Says Parents are Making Mistakes

Teens with learner’s permits have an opportunity to gain a lot of knowledge and skills before obtaining their driver’s license. However, most parents don’t take full advantage of the opportunity to help teens learn as much as possible during this crucial time, according to a 2014 study published in Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Researchers discovered that parents tend to offer a lot of practical instruction on vehicle handling. The most common comments parents made included telling teens to slow down as they approached an intersection. Despite offering sound advice on what to do, most parents in the research study missed out on opportunities to teach teens how to recognize potential safety hazards on their own. Simply telling teens what to do didn’t necessarily translate into teachable moments.

In order to get the most out of practice behind the wheel, start a discussion with your teen about how to recognize when to apply the brakes.

By explaining the cues that signal that it’s time to slow down, your teen will become more familiar with handling the vehicle and responding to road hazards independently. These types of conversations can help teens begin to understand the risks of the road.

Steps Parents Can Take to be Good Driving Instructors

Take steps to educate yourself about how to help your teen learn to drive.

Teaching your teen necessary skills shouldn’t just be about helping your teen pass the driving test – instead, it should focus on helping your teen learn to be a safe driver. Familiarize yourself with the 12 biggest dangers to teen drivers

Before attempting to teach your teen to be a safe driver, brush up on your skills. Perhaps you’ve developed some unhealthy habits of your own – like rolling through stop signs or speeding. Remember, that it’s important to role model good driving habits so you can help your teen learn to be a good driver.

When riding as a passenger with your teen behind the wheel, focus on helping your teen learn. Avoid talking on the phone or listening to the radio, but instead, place all of your attention on being a good teacher. Teach your teen by providing plenty of feedback – both positive and negative- and by discussing ways your teen can improve. Turn mistakes into lessons and help your teen find ways to prevent repeating mistakes again next time.

Promising Results from the Teen Driving Plan Program

Teen Driving Plan is a program that shows parents how to best teach teens how to drive. The program provides parents with online instruction about how to create a positive learning experience for teens and it offers instruction to parents about how to teach specific driving skills.

A study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that teens whose parents participated in the TDP program were more likely to pass their road test. The study found that 6% of teens whose parents participated in TDP failed their driver tests, compared to 15% from the control group.

The program also helps parents teach teens the skills they need to become safe drivers, many of which aren’t necessarily related to their road tests. For example, parents learned how to effectively teach teens to drive in thunderstorms or other adverse road conditions. Researchers plan to continue studying the program to learn whether or not it can decrease car accidents.

Teen Driving Plan provides parents with brief videos to help them teach specific skills. It also offers opportunities for parents to log driving time and to keep track of a teen’s skill development. It encourages ongoing instruction and shows parents how to establish concrete goals for each practice session. Demonstrations of the program are available online now and parents can have full access to it by the end of 2014.

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