5 Tips for Parents of Teen Drivers

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Tim Hollister, teen driver safety advocate and the author of an essential new book: Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving (Chicago Review Press, Sept. 2013), pushes parents to understand the causes behind teen crashes and head them off each time — before their teen gets behind the wheel. "It’s what I wish I had known before my son died," says Hollister, who lost his 17-year-old son Reid in a one-car crash in 2006. Since then, Hollister has become a national authority and spokesperson for safer teen driving. Following are five tips Hollister offers parents of teens.

1. A teen brain is not the same as an adult brain
The human brain is not fully developed until we reach our mid 20’s, and the last part of the brain that develops is the part that provides judgment and restraint. This is a limitation on the ability of teen drivers that Drivers Ed, training, and good intentions cannot overcome.

2. Discuss specific driving situations with your teens
Most of the situations that result in teen driver crashes are predictable – we have years of statistics on what they are. Therefore, a parent’s job is not just to teach a teen to drive, but to beware and preempt these situation before their teens get behind the wheel.Recognize the factors that substantially increase the already-high risk of a teen driver crash: speeding, fatigue, bad weather, an unsafe vehicle, and of course drugs and alcohol.

3. Act like an air traffic controller
Parents should treat newer drivers like pilots of an airplane, by preparing a "flight plan" covering safety each time a teen gets behind the wheel.

4. Understand purposeful teen driving versus joyriding
Parents need to understand the critical difference between purposeful driving (teens with a destination, a route, and reason to arrive safety and on time) and joyriding (teens in a car for fun). The latter is much more dangerous.

5. Absolutely no electronic device distractions
For electronic devices of all types, the only rule that makes sense for teen drivers, though difficult to enforce, is zero tolerance. This means the cellphone goes in the glove box before the car starts and stays there until the car is turned off, and it also mean teens should not use the ever-increasing array of dashboard mounted technology, such as screen with interactive Internet access, in newer model cars.