By Donna Joyner, RN, BSN, Trauma/Burn Outreach Coordinator, Wake Forest Baptist Health

For teens, getting a driver’s license means more freedom and fun, but few have the maturity to understand the risk and responsibility of driving. For parents, this is a time of anxiety. As a parent, you are given the task of “teaching” your teen to drive safely, but do you have the knowledge and tools to do so?

Car crashes are the number one killer of teens, taking approximately 3,000 young lives (ages 15 to 19) each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). North Carolina Department of Transportation data for 2010 shows that in Forsyth County there were 384 injuries and 4 deaths in the 15 to 19 age group. Inexperience is the leading risk factor, with most crashes occurring within the first six months after a teen receives their license.

According to research, the three common errors leading to the majority teen crashes are:
• Failure to scan the surroundings and inability to detect and respond to hazards.
• Going too fast for conditions.
• Being distracted by something inside or outside the vehicle.

Parents play a key role in keeping their teens safe on the road, so what’s a parent to do?

• Lead by example and view every car ride as a teaching opportunity. This is an excellent opportunity for parents to point out how to handle different driving situations.
• Help your teen get the practice needed in a variety of driving conditions and situations. Be positive and encouraging. • Know the North Carolina Graduated Driver’s License rules.
• Establish rules and expectations for driving that you and your teen agree on.

As a parent, you can cut your teen’s crash risk in half by staying involved, setting rules and being supportive. What other tips or advice do you have as parents? Please share below!