How can I keep my teenager safe from reckless drivers?

Our children go through many milestones as they age. They take their first steps, learn to ride a bicycle, and start driving. Little may be as stressful as that last one. Teaching our children to drive is an important life skill but also a dangerous one. The potential for a catastrophic accident is terrifying, and we, as parents, do everything we can to keep our children safe.

One way we can help ensure their safety while driving is to discuss reckless driving — both the potential for their own reckless driving and the likelihood that they will come across other dangerous drivers while on the road.

What is reckless driving?

First, it is helpful to have a definition of reckless driving. This can include the rather vague “dangerous” driving, but digging in a little more for clearer information is helpful. One way to do this is to have the state’s definition.

Alabama state law defines reckless driving as driving with a reckless or wanton disregard for safety. This can include driving too fast.

How do I encourage my teenager to drive safely?

Like anyone, it can help to have some skin in the game. Consider having the teenager help pay for the vehicle they are driving or kick in for the cost of insurance. You could also have a contract with your child outlining your safe driving expectations. This could include not talking on or using the phone while driving, not driving too fast or aggressively, and not getting distracted by friends.

How can I keep my child safe if they are a passenger in this situation?

This is an important conversation for everyone. Anyone can find themselves in a vehicle with a driver making poor choices. It is valuable for adults and teens to have the information needed to navigate this difficult social situation before they are in it. Navigating any difficult social situation is easier if we have scripts. These scripts provide things we can say that are relatively easy to remember. Ideally, our children will remember this conversation and have these scripts in mind to help guide a discussion with the driver when in the moment.

In these situations, psychology experts recommend an I “see, feel, expect” approach. If the driver is driving too fast, the passenger could say the following:

  • I see you are driving too fast.
  • I feel unsafe.
  • I expect you to drive at a more reasonable speed.

If the script is ineffective, we can encourage our child to state that they will not ride with the driver again and can threaten to call 911 and report the driver for reckless driving.

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