Kids Health Matters: Teen driving safety tips

Learning to drive is often an exciting time for teens and a nerve-wracking one for parents, but here's some advice to help.

It's a sobering statistic, per mile driven, teen drivers are 3 times more likely to be in a fatal crash than those over the age of 20.

The highest crash risk is in the first year after a teen gets his or her license.

Catherine McDonald, Ph.D., R.N., who researches teen driving for Children's Hospital and the Penn School of Nursing, says graduated drivers licenses have improved safety.

"The different provisions, like limiting passenger, limited nighttime driving, that has really helped decrease our crash rate," says McDonald.

She says parents can play an even bigger role, by working with their teens to set house rules, starting during the learner's permit stage.

A good one is having to ask to use the car.

"It opens up the opportunity for parents to say to their teen - where are you going today? Who are you going with? What estimated time will you be?" added McDonald.

Since inexperience figures into many accidents, McDonald suggests parents continue driving practice with their kids, so they can handle bad weather, and avoid common mistakes like:

- Following too closely, and getting into rear-end crashes

-Turning left into oncoming traffic

-Driving while tired

-Going off the road due to distractions.

In her focus groups, McDonald found that teens are aware distracted driving is dangerous.

She says, "But how can we get them to stop some of these behaviors?"

The key, McDonald says, is to keep the conversation going.

The teen driver research team has many resources for parents and teens at including aTeen Driving Plan , to help families navigate this new highway.

Helpful advice on summertime driving can be found at Striking a Summertime Safety Balance and Ending the School Year With Safety.
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