William E. Van Tassel: Although your teen will be the one driving, it will be your influence that can make the difference when it comes to safety. Here is how you can help your teen become a smarter new driver.
First, gauge whether your teen is ready to drive alone, you are the best judge of readiness and you decide when they can get license. Have they practiced enough and in varying conditions? Can they detect driving hazards and react to them appropriately? Do they buckle up without a reminder? Do they obey all traffic signs and signals?
Second, enforce strict zero-tolerance rules with your teen and be a good role model. Speed is a leading factor in crashes for teens and adults, so set a good example and set strong rules about speed. Also, teen driver's crash rates multiply when they have teen passengers. Set limits on passengers and enforce them. Set other family rules like keeping the car clean and full of view.
Third, require pre-drive check-ins. Before handing over the keys, make sure your teen gives you information about their trip, including destination, routes to be taken, who'll be in the vehicle and an estimated return time. Remind your teen to buckle up, turn off their cell phone and keep the music volume down and stick to trip boundaries.
Finally, keep talking about driving issues. The more your teen is behind the wheel, the more experiences you both have to talk about, such as dealing with tailgaters, distractions, speeding and poor weather.
Your teen will be at the highest risk for a crash in their first 12 to 18 months behind the wheel, so take the steps needed to make your teen a smarter driver. Your involvement can make all the difference.