Health Matters

Teen Driving Plan May Be a Life-Saver

Jul. 7, 2014
Summertime: When young drivers with school-free schedules hit the road for fun activities with friends. While we welcome the warm days of July, they also find us in the thick of the “100 Deadliest Days” for young drivers, a term coined for the weeks from Memorial Day through Labor Day, when free time and inexperienced drivers can combine with tragic results.
Teenage girl behind the wheel of a car
A Teen Driving Plan can help young drivers stay safe this summer, says UR Medicine pediatric safety specialist Dr. Anne Brayer. Distractions and inexperience can lead to dangerous situations and tragic outcomes, but can often be prevented with diverse practice and quality instruction before your teen gets his or her license.
A recent study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, suggests that a structured, web-based Teen Driving Plan (TDP)—that includes driver training in various environments and conditions as well as parent involvement in early driving experience—may improve safety for young drivers. A TDP can help your teen advance from one stage of driving to the next, with a greater understanding of and appreciation for the rules of the road. 
Here are some things to keep in mind as your teen works toward earning a driver’s license.
Practice: Quantity and Quality
When practicing driving, many teens focus on the number of hours they’re putting in to complete the different license requirements. While earning the required amount of hours is critical, the skillset learned during that experience plays a large role in a young driver’s success. Paying attention to all aspects of driving—such as anticipating other drivers’ actions, driving on winding roadways, and being cautious in different weather conditions—are all skills teens should learn before they’re alone behind the wheel and faced with a challenging situation.
Parents Are Learning Partners
While learning to drive can be a stressful experience for both parents and teens, there are multiple benefits to parents being engaged in the process. Like your kids, you, as a parent, can also learn from a TDP. And you need to set good examples with your own driving habits from the beginning—from being a defensive driver to putting your phone away. 
When the road test is passed and your teen has a license in hand, sit down with your new driver to create a teen-parent driving contract, where you can work together to agree on driving rules and consequences if they are broken.
Discourage Distractions
Distracted driving is a major cause of car accidents among teens. New drivers should ideally drive without passengers, to maximize their focus on the road. If driving with passengers, avoid any activity that distracts the driver. And, of course, cell phones should be out of sight.
Ann Brayer, MD
Anne Brayer, M.D., is a professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine and pediatric emergency physician at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital. Brayer is the director of the Injury Free Coalition of Rochester, which aims to reduce childhood injuries.