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Safe Teen Drivers
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We parents want to keep our kids healthy. But health means more than diet, exercise and sleep. If you’re the parent of a teenager who has their license, setting up firm rules about driving habits is imperative to their health.

There are many things that can distract our teens while they are driving: cell phone use (talking and texting), adjusting the radio, selecting an iPod song, eating or drinking, chatting with passengers, putting on makeup, and using a GPS. These are the most common distractions.

I just found out that National Teen Driver Safety Week came and went, and my husband and I didn’t even know it. We also didn’t know that according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers age 15-20 are the most easily distracted. Our daughter is 18. And it gave me the chills when I read that 16 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were driving while distracted. 1

If your child is a new driver, a recent study indicates you should be even more cautious. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the most dangerous time for teens is not when they’ve become accustomed to driving, but rather right after they’ve received their license. 2

Driving Agreement

If you want to be proactively involved in protecting your teenage driver, use the parent-teen driving agreement developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Use it as is, or let it be a guide for writing your own. You can print a copy of the agreement at http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/safety/pages/Teen-Driving-Agreement.aspx

Perhaps even more important than a contract is setting the right example for our kids. A new survey found that 61 percent of teens said that their parents were distracted by their own phones at least once while teaching them how to drive. And parents aren’t arguing this fact. Fifty-three percent admitted to being distracted at least once while teaching their kids. If this is the case, what about those who have younger children? Will their kids grow up watching mom or dad text, talk on the phone, or be distracted in other ways and think it’s the norm?

Just the other day our daughter came home from school a bit shaken. A driver coming from her left ran a stop sign and nearly hit our daughter’s car on the driver’s side. Was the other driver distracted? Yes, she was on her cell phone.

We won’t always be in the car with our kids to make sure they drive safely. But we can set a good example, require a driving agreement, and stay involved. It would be tragic to have one of our teens hurt themselves or someone else—or worse—because they were distracted. Such tragedies are totally preventable.

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2011 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

1 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/18/your-take-do-you-drive-wh_n_1017819.html
2 http://www.forbes.com/sites/tanyamohn/2011/10/18/teenage-drivers-a-new-study-provides-fresh-insights/

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