If it is January, many among us go through an annual ritual called setting resolutions. I personally do not follow the ritual, but I do not mind suggesting an item for a section of the Eden Prairie News audience: parents of teens.
Parents, you have a critical role to play in this joint resolution. Also, it will live beyond one year. It is for you to decide how long you want the resolution to last. The resolution assumes your teen either already has a driver's license or is going to get one soon.
The resolution reads as follows: I will become an integral part of my teen’s driving life.
I do not deny at all that my suggestion borders on being intrusive. But please try it. The benefits are many. Your teen will become a better driver. You will bond better with the teen (bravo!). Not only that, you may learn a thing or two about your own driving behavior that needs some work or a total redesign. It will be a win-win for everyone in the family. It will save lives.
To give you a head start and ensure success, a few tips from me:
- If your teen does not yet have a driver's license, make sure that you select a high-quality drivers education program. Remember that all drivers ed programs are not the same. There are some that just do the job and others build responsible drivers for life. I know parents spend so much time on selecting the most reliable car for their teen to learn driving but make a poor choice of drivers ed program where she/he will get trained. Please shop for the best program. I wish there was a rating chart like Consumer Reports for drivers ed programs. In the absence of that, learn from your neighbors and colleagues at work who already have kids with driver's licenses.
- Become knowledgeable about the Graduated Driver License and its attributes. Make sure you watch the teen for compliance.
- A few years ago, Minnesota passed a law that requires parents to attend an in-class session with their student driver. However, many parents take the easy out in the law that allows them to log extra hours for adult supervision for the behind the wheel training at home instead of attending the in-class session with their teen. I strongly recommend that you go for in-class training. I can assure you that you will learn things that you may not be aware of.
- Although teen driver fatalities have declined over the years, motor vehicle crashes still are the leading cause of teen deaths. In fact, the United States is facing an alarming overall increase in roadway fatalities. This makes it more important than ever for parents to be insistent on the rules set for their teens’ behavior behind the wheel. A study by Liberty Mutual and SADD found that parents are setting a poor example for teens by engaging in unsafe driving behaviors, such as texting and driving, and are not listening to their kids’ warnings. Forty-one percent of teens say their parents continue these unsafe behaviors even after their teens ask them to stop, and 28% of teens say their parents justify unsafe behavior. Become a good role model.
- The state of Minnesota has developed a great DVD titled "Point of Impact." Ask for it from the state or the drivers ed program. This DVD is undergoing a revision, but even in its current form it is a great tool for you to have. Reach out to me if you cannot get it.
- Ask your teen to join the Distraction-free Life Club at the Eden Prairie High School. The club was started by Shreya Foundation (www.shreyadixit.org) in 2015 and is a great source for learning responsible driver behaviors.
Now that I have given you, the parents, a starter kit for your 2020 resolution, go for it. I wish you good luck.