The unfortunate fact is that, for teen drivers, rowdy and loud friends in the car can be more dangerous than phones. A teen may think packing the car with friends is completely harmless, that their friends are just being their same, energetic selves. However, studies have shown that the crash risk doubles when teens drive with one peer passenger. That number almost triples with two or more teen passengers.
There are many laws in place to help reduce these numbers, but in the end, the responsibility is solely on the teen to make sure they are driving as safely as possible – whether they are alone or with a friend or two.
Safety should always come first, and if parents and teens follow a few simple tips, we can all make the road a safer place.
First Things First: Know the Laws for Driving with Passengers
Most states have their own Graduated Driving Licensing (GDL)provisions, which is to say that the rules for driving with friends may be different depending on your location.
In some states, new drivers recieve an intermediate license which allows them to drive only between certain times in the day and without any passengers under a certain age. Some states may allow them to have family members and others will require that newdrivers are supervised by someone over a certain age.
If a state has this kind of GDL program, drivers may be eligible for an unrestricted license when they turn 17 or when they’ve had their license for 6 months without any collisions or traffic violations.
Following the laws of your state is a critical first step to ensuring your teens are safe when they drive with friends.
Simple Guidelines for Safety
Keeping teens safe while driving doesn’t have to involve extensive checklists, personal body armor, and satellite tracking. In fact, if you and your teen can implement a few simple guidelines, everyone in the vehicle will be much safer every time they hit the road.
Make Sure They Understand Their Responsibility
When a teen is driving with passengers, it’s important for them to realize that they are now responsible for the safety of every person in the vehicle. The more they understand the weight of that responsibility, the more they will feel comfortable setting rules and boundaries for their friends.
Set Your Own Restrictions
Your local laws may restrict teens to only one other passenger for the first 6 months, but you, as the parent, have the final say. Should your teen wait 7 months? A year? Should they be home before the sun sets? Do they have particular friends that are known to be distracting and therefore banned from being a passenger? Set your own restrictions on your teen’s driving and make sure they stick to them.
Set Your Rules for the Car
If your teen is going to drive with some friends, then make sure everyone in the vehicle agrees to:
- Always wear a seat belt
- Never act out wildly
- Keep the music to a reasonable level
- Respect the driver’s needs
- Remain quiet when the situation is obviously stressful
- Never encourage the driver to drive unsafely
Help Teens Become More Confident to Make Better Decisions
Confidence is an important element of safe driving. When teens feel confident behind the wheel, they’ll be able to make better decisions. And we’re not just talking about reacting appropriately to unexpected road hazards. We’re talking about feeling confident enough to tell their peers that the noise and the distractions inside the car are getting out of hand.
You can help your teens feel more confident about these decisions by reinforcing the importance of defensive driving and regularly encouraging them to consider every situation as it occurs. You don’t have to be in the car with them at all times, but if you have spent enough time with them to build their confidence, they will be much safer on their own.
Use Positive Reinforcement
The more your teen shows that they are a safe, responsible driver, the more you can provide some positive feedback by easing up on some of your rules and restrictions.
It’s important to reward good behavior in these early stages because this is where teens will develop driving habits that last a lifetime. In other words, if they prove that they can drive safely with friends, you can allow them to continue having that privilege.
Beating the Statistics
The statistics say that in fatal speeding-related crashes that involve teen drivers, the risk increases exponentially for every other teen in the car. It appears that teens are simply more likely to be distracted with peers in the vehicle with them.
You can beat that trend by helping your teen learn all about their responsibilities for their passengers and how defensive driving can make sure everyone makes it home safe.