Ohio AAP Offers Tips for Keeping Teen Drivers Safe During Celebratory Spring and Summer Seasons

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By granting privileges that increase with experience and enforcing consequences, parents can help keep their teen drivers safer on the roads during prom and graduation season, and throughout the year.

While we can’t protect our children from every danger, there are proven things we can do to reduce their risks and encourage good decision making. It starts with clear expectations and open and ongoing conversation.

More than one-third of the year’s alcohol related teen fatalities occur around prom and graduation time. With the season of celebrations upon us, and May being Global Youth Traffic Safety Month, the Ohio AAP would like to offer some important tips that can help parents work with their teen drivers to minimize their risk of being involved in a crash.

“As a father of a teenager and an emergency room physician, I am acutely aware of the stresses that come along with these fun yet potentially dangerous times,” said Dr. Mike Gittelman, MD FAAP, emergency medicine physician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and chair of the Ohio AAP Injury Prevention Committee. “While we can’t protect our children from every danger, there are proven things we can do to reduce their risks and encourage good decision making. It starts with clear expectations and open and ongoing conversation.”

Following is a list of several tips parents can use to help encourage good decision making and reduce the risks of their teen being involved in a crash:

  •     Set rules and guidelines, and enforce them. This doesn’t just apply to prom and graduation season, but all year around. The Ohio AAP parent-teen driving contract helps parents plan ahead and work with their teens to set clear driving privileges that increase as they gain experience. The contract includes AAP recommendations for several areas, including: distracted driving, night-time driving, alcohol use, seat belt use and number of passengers in the car. The contract can be downloaded at http://ohioaap.org/teendriving.
  •     Leave the car at home. Just because your teen is old enough to drive doesn’t mean her or she is ready to drive in every situation. There is a lot of stress, excitement and distraction at this time of year. For those big events, consider hiring a limo or paying an older sibling or responsible adult to drive the teens for the evening.
  •     Create an “escape plan.” Sit down with your teen and talk about a plan that allows him to call you – no matter what – for a safe ride home. Make sure you are available to him at all times while he is out. Promise that all questions will be saved for a later time.
  •     Limit passengers. The risk of a crash multiplies with each additional passenger in the car. A 2012 study by AAA concluded that the risk increases by almost half when a 16- or 17-year-old driver has one teenage passenger; doubles with two teen passengers; and it quadruples with three or more. Remember, this is important when your teen is a driver or a passenger. Make sure you know who your child is with and be comfortable contacting other parents to confirm details.
  •     Role play. Talk about different situations that could occur at parties or on the road. Ask your teen how she would handle it. Role play with her. Give her tools and phrases she can use in difficult situations.

For more information about teen driving, including data and statistics, risk factors and Ohio’s Graduated Driver’s License Laws, or to download a parent-teen driving contract that can help guide these critically important conversations, visit: http://ohioaap.org/teendriving/.    

The Ohio Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (Ohio AAP) promotes the health, safety and well-being of children and adolescents so they may reach their full potential. The Ohio AAP works to accomplish this by addressing the needs of children, their families, and their communities, and by supporting Chapter members through advocacy, education, research, service, and improving the systems through which they deliver pediatric care.

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Jill Buterbaugh
Krile Communications
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