"Teens learning to drive during Pandemic – Parents can help" From Gabrielle Washington, M.S. Matagorda County Extension Agent Family and Community Health

   During the pandemic, many teens have had to make changes in their plans to get their driver’s license.   
   With some driving schools closed due to COVID-19, more parents took over the responsibility of providing training.   
   One thing that has not changed is that motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for teens 15-to-19 years old in the U.S. and in Texas.  
   And it is not just the teen drivers at risk, it is also their passengers and younger teens, who are not even driving yet, that are at risk.  
   Driver inexperience is one of the main reasons that teens are more likely to be in a crash.  
   Setting guidelines and rules, parents can help make their teens safer drivers.  
   Parents have more influence over their teens than they may think. 
   A recent survey conducted by State Farm Insurance showed that nearly nine out of 10 teens admitted to engaging in at least one cellphone behavior while driving.  
   Two-thirds of teens said they program a navigation app while driving. Slightly less than half said they read text messages or talk on a hand-held phone when behind the wheel.  
   Despite teens acknowledging that these activities can be distracting, they still use their phones while driving. 
   The survey also pointed out that teens whose parents use cellphones while driving were significantly more likely to engage in each phone activity.
   Parents can make a difference in their teen’s driving by being role models.   
   First, parents should be familiar with the Graduated Driver License Law (GDL) that protects teen drivers in the beginning stages of their driving.  
   Parents should get involved with their teens and stay involved through their teen driving years to make sure they follow good driving habits. 
   Here is a list from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 
   Remind your teen driver that driving is a privilege, not a right.  
   If they aren’t following the rules of the road, they don’t get to have the keys to the car. 
   Whether you own the vehicle, or your teen owns the vehicle, they are living under your roof, and they need to follow the rules.  
   This also means that, whether they want to or not, they need to listen to what you have to say about driving safety. 
   Talk to your teen driver about driving laws.  
   If they can’t follow the law, they can’t drive the car. You could save their life. 
   Talking to your child about the importance of safe driving habits may feel tiresome for both parent and teen at times but keep working at it.  
   They are listening and they depend on you to set and enforce the rules. 
   Remind teens about the GDL and the restrictions on nighttime driving, passengers in the vehicle and cell phone use. 
   Practice constant communication about safe driving skills.  
   Self-reported surveys show that teens with parents who set and enforce firm rules for driving typically engage in less risky driving behaviors and are involved in fewer crashes.  
   Don’t look at the conversation as nagging or bothersome — your teen is counting on you to not only set a good example, but to enforce the rules. 
   Be a good role model for your teen driver and set an example with your own safe driving habits. 
   Talk to your teen about safe cell phone use while in the car.  
   Encourage them to stow their phones while driving, designate a texter, or to pull over before answering phone calls or responding to text messages. 
   Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Family and Community Health Educator Gabrielle Washington, Matagorda County reminds parents to take advantage of National Teen Driver Safety Week to talk to their teens about staying safe on the road.  
   Remember, one of the most important safety features for your teen driver is YOU.
   Bottom line is that as a parent you need to know the dangers that teen driving poses.  
   You have more influence on your teen than you may think. Be a good example and get involved in their driving habits from the beginning and stay involved for the duration of their teen years.

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