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May 16, 2016

A Mom's Practical Guide to #TeenDriver Safety

Back_to_school-teen_driver-iStock_000008379470As the mother of two boys (now 22 and 13), I dreaded the days approaching my first son's landmark 16th birthday and the all-important driver's license that would come with it.

Knowing that, each year, thousands of teen drivers and passengers are killed and more than 150,000 are injured in car crashes made me concerned about his safety on the road. The leading cause of death among teenagers is teen driving!

IStock_000002777438_eurobanksBen was well-prepared to take the steering wheel of our family minivan; we patiently gave him every opportunity to practice, practice, practice on both city streets and crowded Los Angeles-area freeways, even at night, which can be one of the most dangerous times for young drivers to be on the roads. If we were going somewhere together during the months he was permitted, he was my chauffeur.

Our stipulation that he had to maintain a 3.0 GPA to qualify for our insurance company's "good student" discount delayed his license for six months after his birthday, giving us even more time to guide his behind-the-wheel learning. Statistics show that student drivers who maintain better grades are less likely to make mistakes behind the wheel, which is why insurance companies will give discounts. And, besides being concerned about their safety, many parents I knew were equally as concerned about the cost of insuring their teen drivers: Earning that Good Student discount is an important way to save money on your teen's car insurance premiums.

Teen_driver-speeding-iStock_000007021297_SmallAnd even now, as my 13-year-old anticipates his future as the pilot of my Ford Fiesta, I take many opportunities to educate him about good driving habits while we're in the car together. I also point out the bad habits of those drivers around us – even my own – which often include following too closely, or failing to use turn signals.

"As a parent, it’s up to you to get more involved and teach teenagers about the dangers of driving – such as distractions, drinking and speeding," said Randy Petro, Mercury Insurance chief claims officer. Because I also recognize that parents set the most important example for their young drivers, I have always enforced the following three critical rules while driving:

Labor_day_driving_safety_wear_seatbelt-iStock_000063781533_MediumFirst: Everybody Buckles Up.

Motor vehicle crashes are the second-leading cause of death for children 4 to 10 years old: In 2012, 340 children this age died in motor vehicle crashes, and third of them were riding without a restraint that could have potentially saved their lives. My car does not move if passengers are not properly buckled into their car seat, booster seat, or seatbelt. Plain and simple, end of discussion.

Distracted_teen_driver-iStock_000011790544_SmallSecond: Avoid Distracted Driving.

In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in distracted driving crashes. Reduce distractions by avoiding cell phone or device use while driving. My Fiesta is equipped with Ford Sync, which easily connects my cell phone to the car via Bluetooth for hands-free operation of calls, music and navigation on my smartphone. And my most recent Samsung Galaxy S5 has a feature that locks its screen when it connects to my car, so I can now resist the temptation to pick it up and look at it while driving. Investigate ways your car and phone can work together to help you go hands free.

Third: No Driving After Drinking.

Portable handheld breathalyzers (like this one from Floome) are affordable and easy to use. Taxis and ridesharing services (like Lyft and Uber) are convenient and affordable alternatives to the cost of an alcohol-related ticket – or accident, which would be even worse if somebody were injured or killed.

Get Six Tips To Help Your Teen Be a Better Driver Here at AskPatty

Finally, if you've got a young driver, take a look at the Mercury Insurance Teen Driver microsite to find ways to teach teens safe driving and collision avoidance techniques, laws and information, how to select the right vehicle, and much more. The company's DriveSafe Challenge was developed to help reduce, or potentially stop, teen driver accidents and deaths, and includes a safe driving contract to help parents and teenagers agree on both safe driving rules, as well as the consequences if their promises are broken.


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