That sudden spike in your anxiety level when your teen gets a driver's license is completely understandable. After all, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and teen drivers are almost three times more likely than older drivers to get in a deadly crash.1
These accidents can sometimes be prevented, and parents play an important role in helping teens stay safe on the road. But research shows that simply supporting your teen behind the wheel isn't enough to ensure good skills. According to a 2014 study by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), 54 percent of teens who spent six months driving with a parent-coach still made major mistakes on a follow-up driving test
The way you coach your new driver can make all the difference. Here are 6 common mistakes you
might be making, and the proven corrections that can help ensure your teen’s continued driving success. 1. Losing Your Cool
Sincere support and positive reinforcement go a long way. Praise your teen when they practice good judgment and avoid blowing up over mistakes. Discipline as necessary, but do it in a way that draws attention to areas that need improvement while reinforcing good behavior.3
Avoid saying things like "you're going to get us killed!" Instead, model a calm demeanor - it will also set a good example for your teen so they remain cool in the car under pressure.
Pointing out ways your teen can advance their skills by anticipating other drivers' actions or traffic patterns are common tips of defensive driving. Teach them how to scan the road for hazards and conditions, and how to avoid them by stopping, steering away, or speeding up.
2. Not Planning Out Your Drives Ahead of Time
Planning is everything. And since teens need to log a specific number of practice hours behind the wheel, you'll want to make sure you put together a program that helps them meet their goals. For some families, using an interactive tool like the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's TeenDrivingPlan
can help parents and teens stay on track and accountable. One 2016 study found that teens who followed CHOP's TDP program with their families were 65 percent less likely to make dangerous mistakes when driving.4
The best thing you can do is focus on certain skills for each driving session, starting with beginner skills and move up to more complex scenarios as your teen's skills improve, such as highway, nighttime, or bad weather driving.
Don't focus only on your family's routine routes. Mix it up, and include new places so your teen driver can get used to navigating all types of driving situations.
3. Becoming a Distracted Passenger
When you're in the car with your teen, you're not just accompanying them because it's required by law that they have an adult in the car. You're an active participant in giving feedback, too. So, avoid distractions and letting your mind wander. You're a teacher, not just a passenger. 4. Bringing Up Outside Issues While Your Teen is Driving
While it can be tempting to use this "alone time" with your teen to discuss other matters, keep the car conversation limited to the task at hand: improving your teen's understanding of the road. Table any other topics like their school grades or family issues for later and encourage them to remain focused. 5. Not Following the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Laws
Don't let your teen skip out on this crucial licensing program to wait and get a license at age 18. Each state (and the District of Columbia) has a three-stage system to help teen drivers build experience and skills over time
. This Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system has reduced teen crashes by an average of ten to 30 percent.8
Laws vary depending on location, but in general, every state implements a three-stage system so teens graduate from a learner's permit, to a provisional license, and finally to an unrestricted license. Each stage grants teens more privileges like nighttime driving or driving with friends.9
Following the GDL laws to a T will help ensure your teen earns extra perks only when they're ready and able to take on more driving responsibilities. 6. Not Incorporating Web-based Driving Simulators
Missing out on all the tools at your fingertips is a big mistake. Research has shown that web-based interventions and materials can significantly improve teens' driving performance. These online simulators not only give teens more practice time behind the wheel, but they also allow them to hone in on specific skills like merging and changing lanes.10
Having a new teen driver in the family can be stressful on you as a parent. But one of the best ways to make your teen a better driver is to make yourself a better driving coach. Only then can you start to eliminate some of that worry while your teen is behind the wheel.