Q: Are there any resources to help me keep my new teen driver safer on the road?
This is such an important topic, as recent statistics have shown that crashes are the number one killer of teens in the US. Sadly, many lethal teen car crashes are due to reckless and distracted driving. The silver lining is that crashes due to distracted driving are preventable, and there are resources available to help with coaching and rule setting with your teen.
Fortunately, over the last two decades, graduated driver’s license (GDL) programs have done a lot to keep our teens and roads safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), while GDL laws vary from state to state, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have some form of GDL program. Studies show teens are at greater risk for getting into accidents if there are other people in the car (distracting them) or when driving at night. That is why Hawai’i’s GDL law places restrictions on nighttime driving and the transporting of other young passengers.
The law is more likely to be followed if your teen understands why it is in place. Talk to your teens about the GDL law and why the rules are the way they are- to keep them safe. Have an honest conversation with them about the importance of staying focused on driving and how unforgiving a few seconds of distraction can be when behind the wheel. Let this conversation be an opportunity to talk about other family agreements when it comes to driving.
The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics have developed a parent-teen driving contract to help guide the conversation around safe driving with your teen. It is a great tool for parents and includes agreements on safe driving behavior as well as a section to write in consequences if rules are broken. We encourage you to download the contract, and review it with your team before having them sign in. Try your best to help your teen understand why each of the rules are important for their safety. Download the Parent-Teen Driving Agreement at www.MauiHealth.org/DriveSafe.
Lastly, it is important to walk the walk if you are going to talk the talk. As parents and adult role models, it is critical that we model the behaviors we are asking of our teens. Put your phone down when you drive, or better yet, keep it out of sight in the glove box. Whatever safe driving habits you want your teen to have, make sure you have the same.
To support Maui County’s parents and teen drivers, Maui Memorial Medical Center’s Trauma Outreach team is now offering a new class to our community. “What Do You Consider Lethal?” is a free, hour-long course that helps teens really understand how the decisions they make each time they drive can change their lives. To learn more or book a session, please visit www.MauiHealth.org/DriveSafe or call 808-264-1082.