Firm parenting can make an important difference in teens' driving safety, according to two new studies. The first study looked at the link between parenting styles and teen driving behaviors and attitudes; the second examined teens' behavior based on their access to a vehicle.
Researchers of the first study report that parents who set firm rules about driving and car usage in a helpful, supportive way:
- decreased by 50% the likelihood of their teens getting into a car accident and also decreased the odds that they would drink and drive
- doubled the odds that teens would wear a seatbelt
- decreased by half the likelihood that they would speed
- lessened by 30% teens' likelihood of talking or texting on a cell phone while driving
Parents reported to be most effective were those who enforced strict rules in a kind way, emphasizing safety concerns while also providing opportunities for their young drivers to earn more privileges as their driving skills progress.
The second study found that teens who have their own car or consider themselves the primary driver of a car are twice as likely to be in a collision than those who share a family car. While some 70% of new drivers receive primary access to a vehicle, the authors call the practice dangerous because of its association with risky driving behaviors. They recommend that parents delay such access during the first year of licensed driving as part of "a graded set of driving privileges" earned by novice drivers.
What This Means to You
These new studies — and common sense — suggest that parents should set rules for their teen drivers, such as no passengers in the car for the first 6-12 months of driving, limit driving during bad weather, set curfews, and control the keys to the cars their kids drive.
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for people 16 to 20 years old, and the risk of accidents spikes when there are passengers in the car, if the driver is speeding, or if teens have been drinking or using drugs.
So it's vital that parents set some ground rules well before their teens get a learner's permit. By clearly defining expectations before handing over the car keys, you can reduce the risk of frustrating conflicts, costly accidents, and other problems. What's more, you'll feel more confident about your teen's safety.
Consider putting the rules in writing by creating a Driver Agreement that clearly states the rules and the consequences for not following them. This eliminates gray areas and stresses that you take the rules seriously and your teen should too.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 2009
Source: "Associations Between Parenting Styles and Teen Driving, Safety-Related Behaviors and Attitudes" and "Primary Access to Vehicles Increases Risky Teen Driving Behaviors and Crashes: National Perspective." Pediatrics, October 2009.