For tweens or teens entering middle school or high school, the new school year comes with their increasing desire to be on their own and spend more time bonding with their friends. As they become more mobile and pass their driver's exam, get ready for frank discussions about staying safe and meeting your expectations.
Set rules for after school. This is a time when kids are now entrusted to let themselves in after school and spend an hour or two alone before the grownups get home. Set the ground rules on what they can and can’t do during this time: whether your teen can make stops after school, invite friends over, use electronic devices, cook or spend time in the yard. The daily check-in is also an essential part of the routine. (Hint: Things like door sensors or a motion-activated security camera linked to your smart phone can be handy backup tools.)
Be safe with devices. As your junior high and high school students become more mobile, it’s important to understand how devices can distract us while we’re on the move. For example, according to a 2016 study done by the Governors Highway Safety Association, nearly 6,000 pedestrians died after being struck by vehicles, which is an astounding 11 percent increase over the year before. Increased smartphone use is an underlying cause of this spike in deaths.
Yes, part of the problem is distracted drivers on the road. But smartphone wielding pedestrians are part of the problem, too, as they may step into the road, failing to notice a turning car or signal change. Have a serious talk about smart mobile phone use: Keep those eyes off the screens while your teen or tween is on the go, whether walking, skating, biking or driving.
Reward safe driving. When teens earn their driver’s license, many parents love the new freedom from chauffeur duty. But this freedom comes at a cost, because young drivers cost more to insure because they are involved in more accidents than any other age group. In fact, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in teens ages 16-19 years old. Talk to an ERIE agent about cost-saving strategies.
Keep costs stable (and everyone safe) by doing all you can to give your teen the knowledge and support to prevent collisions. For example, spring for that professional training course. Teen drivers who don’t take driver’s ed are 75 percent more likely to get a traffic ticket and are 24 percent more likely to be involved in a serious collision, according to a 2015 University of Nebraska study. It’s also smart to enter into a driving contract with your teen so they start out with clear expectations and you can enforce the rules.
Be social media savvy. Social media features make it easier than ever to tell the world what you’re doing and where you are in real time. Have a talk with your child about social media sharing, when it’s safe and when it’s better not to divulge certain details. For example, if your teen or tween is home alone before or after school, or walking alone, it’s a good idea to keep this information under wraps.
Limit rides with friends. Experts recommend that new teen drivers not have friends as passengers for the first six months after earning their license. This is even state law in dozens of states. Find out what’s legal and what isn’t in your area, and make your teen aware of the road rules.
Examine your own habits behind the wheel. If you’re one to tailgate, speed and handle your phone while driving, it’s time to put the brakes on these driving habits and make a conscious effort to follow safe driving practices. In other words, don’t do anything behind the wheel you wouldn’t want your teen to do.