National Teen Driver Safety Week kicks off tomorrow and if you are a parent of a teen driver, you have lots of reason to worry every time your kid gets behind the wheel of a car. Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens ages 16 to 19 and more than 350,000 teens are injured in crashes annually, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
If your teen is in a crash, and statistically that's likely, you'll be faced with a potentially injured child, a broken car and quite possibly higher car insurance rates. Here are three things that can help reduce the risk of your teen driver getting in a car crash.
1. Increase practice
Give your teen as much time behind the wheel of your car as possible. Have her drive anytime you are in the car and in all sorts of driving situations, including at night, in wet weather and on extended car trips. One of the reasons that teens have such a high rate of car crashes is that they lack real-world experience. Giving him or her the chance to drive when you are in the car increases the amount of time behind the wheel and also gives you the opportunity to provide guidance for a variety of situations.
2. Reduce distractions
Regardless of your state's laws, insist that the cell phone, for texting and calling, be off limits when the car is in gear. It is the primary cause of driver distraction leading to accidents, according to numerous studies. While texting and talking on a cell phone are the greatest concerns, fumbling with the audio or climate control system as well as for items out of reach can also be distracting. Encourage your teen driver to set his music and climate settings before he puts the car in gear and not to dig in a backpack or reach for something that has fallen on the floor. Taking your eyes off the road -- even briefly -- can lead to disaster.
3. Consider monitoring
There are numerous "black box" gadgets available on the aftermarket to monitor a teen's driving habits, and some automakers offer the parents the built-in ability to do so.
AAA of Southern California recently introduced a free device for insured members to monitor their teen drivers' habits. These devices allow parents to set a number of different features, including speed limits and driving locations, and to automatically be notified by text or email if those boundaries are broken. The units have built-in GPS devices that allow parents to check in on the location of the car via a secure website and some have the ability for roadside assistance to be provided remotely in the event the teen has car trouble. Many parents and teens report that the teens are more careful drivers when they know their parents are monitoring their driving in the family car.
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.