By: Charlene Sligting, National Safety Council
Charlene Sligting is the Victim Advocate for the National Safety Council. Charlene manages the HEARTS Network, which provides a national platform for victims of teen driving crashes who want to share their stories to help reduce crashes and keep teens safe behind the wheel. HEARTS, which stands for Honoring Everyone Affected, Rallying The Survivors, is managed by the National Safety Council and initiated in part by The Allstate Foundation.
Charlene and her son, who received his learner’s permit to drive under parental supervision this year.
As the mother of a teen, I understand first-hand being nervous about letting your child get behind the wheel. With my role as Victim Advocate at the National Safety Council, I work every day with families who have lost loved ones due to crashes associated with teen drivers. This role has created a heightened sense of awareness of what can go wrong when a teen is behind the wheel. It also has taught me the importance of being engaged while my son transitions from a learner’s permit through his first year of licensure, when crash rates are at their highest for teens.
While there are state laws that regulate teen driving hours, we as parents can, and should, do more to protect our children. We set the tone in our homes of what is expected. In my home, we have “family driving laws” – we take our state laws a step further because I know our laws aren’t strong enough.
The first family driving law is called P.S.I. which stands for phone in the glove box, seat belt on, ignition started. With acronyms being a form of communication for my son’s generation, creating a new one seemed fitting and fun. My son knows if the phone doesn’t get put in the glove box and the seat belt doesn’t go on, he won’t be allowed to drive.
Another family driving law is that my son cannot drive in heavy traffic or construction until he has gained more driving experience. Controlling his learning environment helps him remain calm behind the wheel while he builds driving skills. It also eases my worries as he will have a better understanding of how our vehicle handles should the unexpected occur.
These family driving laws are included in our Parent/Teen Agreement. The agreement sets clear expectations and provides examples of violations and consequences. Research shows that parents can greatly reduce the odds of their teens being in a crash by making and enforcing rules. The agreement helps to ensure we both have a clear understanding of what is and isn’t allowed.
The National Safety Council encourages parents and teens to sign a Parent/Teen Driving Agreement to define household rules on the most common risks: driving with passengers, driving at night and using cell phones while driving. The Parent/Teen Agreement can be downloaded and additional ideas for keeping your teen driver safe can be found at driveithome.org.