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Keeping Your Young Driver Safe

After spending years protecting your child from all sorts of dangers on the road and off, you’re faced with the prospect of handing him the keys to the family car. That’s right. Junior has his driver’s license. Are you prepared?

Here are some tips for setting ground rules and keeping your new driver safe:

No passengers for the first six months

Washington has a Graduated Drivers Licensing law. That means that for the first six months, newly licensed drivers aren’t allowed to carry passengers younger than age 20 (except for immediate family members). After six months, they’re restricted to no more than three passengers younger than 20.

And, until your young driver turns 18, he isn’t allowed to drive between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., unless he’s with a licensed driver 25 years or older. In addition, drivers younger than 18 are not permitted to use a cell phone – even with a Bluetooth connection. The only exception is to report an emergency.

Make sure your teen follows the law

Graduated licensing laws have proven effective. But, they are difficult to enforce. That’s why parental oversight is so important. Set ground rules with your teen and explain the consequences for breaking them. Put the rules in writing, sign around and, most importantly, enforce the agreement.

Eliminate distractions

Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic. The average time a person takes their eyes off the road to text is five seconds. If you’re traveling at 55 MPH, you travel the length of a football field in five seconds! Yet a staggering 71% of teens and young people say they have composed and sent a text message while driving. And 78% report they’ve read a message while driving.

Buckle up

The chances of being hurt or killed in an accident are greatly reduced if you’re wearing a seat belt. It keeps you from being thrown around inside the vehicle or ejected from it entirely. Seat belts also help you maintain control of the vehicle. If you’re struck from the side or make a quick turn, the force could move you from behind the wheel. It’s tough to steer when you don’t have your hands on the steering wheel. So, buckle up. Always!

Parents, set a good example

Teen driver fatalities have declined over the years. Even so, motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of teen deaths. Parents, be a good role model: wear your seat belt, obey the speed limit and don’t text and drive. You are the number-one influence on your teen driver’s safety. Surveys show that teens whose parents impose driving restrictions typically engage in less risky driving and are involved in fewer crashes. So, lay down the law – and enforce it.

To get started shaping your teen’s safe driving habits – and for tips on creating ground rules – visit Parents Central.

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