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Safe Driving Tips for Teens and New Parents

From cradle to prom, there are many things that you will need to do to keep your kids safe in the car. Most driving tips for parents focus on how to teach your teen to drive. However, we’ve learned that new parents have almost as many car accidents per year as young drivers do. It turns out that much of the advice for both types of drivers coincide.

Rest up for the road

We understand that new parents often struggle to get enough sleep, but tired driving can be very dangerous. Until you can get a good routine in place, think twice about those short, quick trips that you might be able to skip. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with these errands from your friends and family.

With so much pressure to keep grades up and make it to extracurriculars, teens often come up short on shuteye as well. According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly three-quarters of young drivers admit to driving while sleep-deprived in a given year. Keep an eye on your teens’ sleep habits, and keep their keys if they can’t keep curfew.

Gadgets should be hands-free

The role of super-parent seems to require multitasking to the extreme. In fact, more and more parents can’t keep their hands off their gadgets while driving. Meanwhile, teens are more obsessed with their smartphones than ever. Seeing you on your devices could make your children feel that it’s okay to use theirs when they start to drive.

In addition to cell phones and other devices, distractions can come from eating, loud music, or even other passengers. Teen drivers should be careful about distractions from other passengers in the car while driving and make sure they can adequately focus on the road. Likewise, new parents have to find a delicate balance of focus, determining when it’s best to just pull over and attend to their little one.

Here are some strategies to help:

  • Leave your mobile phones securely fastened and within reach while you are driving. Not so that you can be on it while driving, but rather so in case of emergency it is easily accessible.
  • Turn your phones to driving mode if available, or at the very least turn off any unnecessary notifications to limit distractions. Better yet, if it’s available, connect your phone through the vehicle's radio / interface for hands-free calls.
  • Set up your route before you start moving. Even before that, especially if you’re using a GPS system, make sure the system or app are up to date.
  • If you listen to music, pick your playlist ahead of time.

Keep a checklist

Don’t skimp on your automobile safety checks. Show your teen to walk around the vehicle to check the lights and other components at least once a week, if not daily. Meanwhile, don’t fall out of practice yourself. Your kids will only learn to take these tasks seriously if they see you doing them. Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Measure tire inflation while the tires are “cold”— first thing in the morning works best. Make sure your teens always have a pressure gauge on hand by adding one to the key ring.
  • Check whether the headlights work, even if you don’t think that you will be out past dusk. Also, test out your turn signals and brake lights. You could hang some mirrors in your driveway to make this step easier on cold days.
  • Look under the car for leaks. This way, you may be able to catch a problem before any warning lights turn on.
  • Inspect for any other defects. It may not be raining when you look, but a faulty wiper blade is never a pleasant surprise during a sudden downpour.
  • You should go through the vehicle's road safety kit, being sure the kit is prepped for the appropriate season. It’s also a good idea to review some of our previously shared tips for winter safety and summer road trips for some seasonal specific considerations.

Make some adjustments

If you share an automobile with a family member who’s a foot taller than you, it’s important for everyone to remember to make individual adjustments each time. Show teens how to adjust the mirrors and seat position for every trip, no matter how short it will be. Make it a habit for yourself, too, especially in those instances when the car is packed high (say, on moving day), or as the seasons change and clothes and shoes get bulkier.

For all you new parents, child car seats also need to be adjusted properly. Read those instructions cover to cover like your life depends on it—because your child’s life does. If you’re still unsure of how to install the child seat, you can visit a car seat inspection station and ask for help. Be sure to check with your local township or county office as well, as some communities hold events for proper car seat safety.

How you adjust to life’s changes outside of the vehicle is up to you. Just remember, that if you lead by example and drive safely, your children will probably grow up to be safe drivers as well.

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