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Parents Understanding Their Teens

It's important for parents to understand that teens need rules and boundaries to become safe, experienced drivers. Although teens are often looking to gain independence, parents should be an important part of the learning to drive process. Our research has shown that involved parents that set rules and monitor driving behavior in a supportive way can lower their teens' crash risk and lead them to make positive choices behind the wheel.

Teen drivers are also at risk of crashing due to their evolving brains and associated decision-making processes. Different parts of the brain mature at different rates. This means that while the part of the teen's brain involved in emotions and reactions may be developed at age 16 or 17, the part that controls decisions and impulses may not fully mature until around age 25. This explains why it's sometimes difficult for teens to think rationally when emotions are high, such as when faced with peer pressure from friends.

Emphasize to parents that although their teens may look like adults and even sometimes act like adults, developmentally they're not. Parental support is crucial in keeping teens safe behind the wheel. For example, parents may mistake skill deficits as teens not "paying attention." Actually, teens need to be taught essential skills that adults take for granted. Provide guidance to parents to teach how to "pay attention." Research has shown scanning for hazards is one of three critical errors teens make due to inexperience that leads them to crash. Remind parents that teens need extra time to master some of these "higher order" skills, including scanning, to stay safe behind the wheel.

Most important, parents need to stay calm and focused. Stress and anxiety can make it difficult for teens to learn and for parents to supervise.

Parents Understanding Their Teens


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