The road to safer teen driving

With all the pressure to take advanced classes in high school, many kids don’t get the opportunity to take Driver’s Ed anymore. And that means the onus is on parents, now more than ever, to keep kids safe on the road.

Many parents tend to focus on teaching kids to never drink and drive — and that’s good. But it is only part of the story. Two thirds of car accidents that involve teens have nothing to do with alcohol or substance abuse, according to a recent study by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Instead, inexperience, distractibility and impulsiveness are the biggest factors that cause kids to crash. And all of those factors are things parents can impact before they hand over the car keys.

“It is critical that teens get lots of experience in all kinds of driving situations while a parent is still supervising and guiding the process,” says Arthur Goodwin, a senior research associate with the Center for the Study of Young Drivers at the University of North Carolina.

As nerve-wracking as it can be, parents must allow kids to drive more often — and under tough conditions — while they have their learner’s permits. To help, the center has developed an iPhone app designed to help parents boost their teen’s driving experience.

The idea grew from research that shows many teens do not get enough practice, especially in challenging situations such as darkness, bad weather or heavy traffic. As a result, when teens begin driving without an adult in the car, their crash rate increases sharply.

Whether you use an app or not, practice is needed. But an app may speak more loudly to today’s kids than yelling at them from the passenger seat.

The app, called Time To Drive, helps parents track how much time kids spend driving, along what routes, and in what conditions. In addition, the also provides tips on how to handle a teen who may be scared to drive, or how to choose an appropriate vehicle for a newly licensed teen driver. Another feature is a hard stop meter that will help parents and teens identify when the teen brakes too hard. The goal is to help teens learn to brake sooner and more gradually, since braking too late is one of the most common contributors to teenage driver crashes.

Time to Drive can be purchased in the Apple iTunes store. Proceeds go toward supporting research by the Center for the Study of Young Drivers. For more information, see www.timetodriveapp.com

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Tags: Featured Story, Tweens & Teens

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