Smarter teen driving starts with parents


October 24th, 2013

Observer staff report

With National Teen Driver Safety Awareness Week underway, AAA Northern New England is encouraging parents to take an active role in encouraging safe teen driving methods.

“Teens continue to have the highest crash rate of any age group, so it’s critical that parents are involved and use evidence-based techniques that work,” said Pat Moody, manager of public affairs AAA Northern New England. “These recommended coaching techniques may seem rather obvious, yet research findings show that parents aren’t regularly practicing them.”

AAA recommends at least 100 hours of practice—including practice in bad weather, heavy traffic and different times of day—before teens get their licenses and start driving solo. Parents should also remember to be a good driving role model

AAA’s issued the following recommendations for being a good driving coach:

Practice with your teen. Plan for as much supervised practice behind the wheel as possible. It’s the key to helping your teen develop skills to become a safe driver.

Select a goal for each session. For example, you may want your teen to focus on identifying potential hazards ahead or accelerating and braking smoothly.

Take regular breaks. Stop every 20 minutes or so and review the past few minutes of driving to help your teen process the experience. If your teen did something dangerous behind the wheel, explain why and discuss potential consequences.

Agree on how to communicate before you drive. For example, establish that the word “right” will be used as the opposite of “left” rather than as an affirmation (“correct”).

Keep it interesting. Change the time of day, driving conditions and routes to allow your teen to gain confidence in diverse situations.

Try out progressively more challenging driving situations. These can include parking garages, urban areas and Interstate driving, for example.

Use “commentary driving.” This means having your teen drive and provide feedback about any object or event you encounter that could result in the need to change speed, direction or both.

Be patient. You and your teen may become stressed during these sessions. Remaining relaxed and even-tempered can go a long way toward reducing your new driver’s stress and help improve driving skills.

Be positive. Remember to point out and reinforce good driving behavior.