Did you know that parents play a critical role in influencing teen driving behavior? Parents are vital role models whose impact makes teens more receptive to learning and gaining useful experience. However, no one ever said talking to your teen about anything is an easy conversation! But it’s okay, it’s time to relax! According to the Parent/Teen Driving Survey conducted by Travelers Insurance, the vast majority of teens (96 percent) have had safe driving conversations with their parents. This is an outstanding number, especially when compared to the percentage of teens that have reported talking to their parents about safe sex, alcohol/drugs and bullying. The results provide some substantial evidence that parents who actively discuss safe driving habits with their new teen driver will positively influence their driving.

It is crucial that teens and parents are on the same page about driving rules and the dangers of the road. Just like anything else, it is important ensure that both parents and teens understand the consequences for not following the rules of the road. The survey also shows that 24% percent of teens who reported their parents are not good driving role models have been in more than one accident, compared to 10 % of teens who reported their parents are good role models as drivers.

It’s difficult for parents and teens to see eye to eye on many things, and driving rules is usually one of them. So the real question is, HOW? In many cases you must crawl before you walk, but in this case, there is little time to start out slowly, and frankly, the survey shows us that it makes more sense to do it sooner rather than later!

Younger teens are actually much more approachable and open to talking about safe driving conversations. The Survey reports that 67% of 16 year-olds would like to have the driving conversation, versus just 29% of 18 year olds. Once your teenager already has his or her license, it may be too late to get their attention!

Here are a few key tips for parents on how to be a great role model.

  • PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT– Parents need to make sure that their teens get an ample amount of driving practice in as many situations and conditions as possible. This in turn will help them develop the necessary skills and experience that all young drivers need behind the wheel.
  • THE TALK– Make sure you that you have the “safe driving talk” with your teen and that they are aware of all the dangers and consequences of the road.
  • SHARE YOUR WISDOM– Share stories, experiences, and things that have happened to you that will shed some light on certain situations. Remember that driving comes with experience, so it’s important to share all you have to offer.
  • MAKE RULES– Parents must understand the fact that teens have the highest crash rate. Make sure that you set guidelines and specific rules for your teen to follow to help ensure that they will always be in the safest situation possible. (i.e. Always ask where they’re going, who they are going with and when they will be home!)
  • PARENTS PEACE OF MIND– Yes, you may trust your kids, but driving is a privilege and carries a large responsibility. New drivers simply do not have enough experience to give you the peace of mind needed to sleep at night. Be assertive, and make sure you always have them check in, because inevitably you are responsible for their safety!

Travelers Insurance and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute have created the Let’s Talk Safety Parent/Teen Safe Driving Coaching Guide to help facilitate open communication between parents and their teenage drivers on the importance of safe driving. The Guide equips parents with information for how to initiate the safe driving conversation; ways to educate young people about the dangers of speeding, drunk driving, and distracted driving; and provides parents with a sample “driving contract” they can sign with their children.