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Keeping your teen driver safe behind the wheel

In recent years, more and more teen drivers have been hitting the road, thanks in part to lower gas prices and an improving economy. Yet an increase in teen drivers also correlates with an increase in teen deaths. Teenagers have the highest crash rates per mile of any drivers, and those between ages 16 and 19 are three times more likely to get killed in a car accident than older drivers.

As the parent of a teen driver, you play an indispensible role in protecting your child from such a tragic fate. Here are some ways to reduce the risk that your teenager will become another statistic:

  • Eliminate distractions. Because of their inexperience and lack of judgment, teen drivers aren't able to react as effectively to risks on the road. Distractions can slow down their reaction times even further. It's no surprise that cellphones, music, rowdy passengers, eating and other distractions are leading contributors to accidents.
  • Limit other passengers. The risk of an accident increases with more people in the car - especially other teens. Passengers not only contribute to dangerous distractions, but they can also create peer pressure and contribute to a subconscious tendency to show off.
  • Avoid nighttime driving. Most fatal accidents take place after dark. Gradually introduce your teen to nighttime driving with supervised practice.
  • Enforce seatbelt use. It's a no-brainer that seatbelts save lives. Set clear expectations that your teen (and any passengers) must always wear a seatbelt, no matter how short the drive.
  • Have regular driving "checkups." Routinely ride along with your teen to monitor his or her driving practices. These checkups provide a valuable opportunity to offer support, guidance and encouragement.
  • Be a good role model. "Do as I say, not as I do" isn't a good strategy when it comes to teaching your teen safe driving practices. Whenever you're driving, make a conscious effort to avoid distractions, obey speed limits and traffic laws, wear a seatbelt and make other wise choices.

By following these tips, you can help your teen driver develop safe habits and steer clear of risky behaviors behind the wheel.

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