Taking Do as I Say, Not as I Do to the Limit with Teens

Perhaps one of the most important axioms today when it comes to shaping young minds is “lead by example.” However, you better watch what you do behind the wheel of your car! Your teenagers may seem that they are indifferent to the world around them, buried in their MP3 player or Gameboy, but they are truly watching your every move behind the wheel, at least part of the time.

The concept of “leading by example” is definitely an altruistic one that parents say they often do, but surveys of teens across the country say that the parent contingent is rather lax in that area. There are teen reports of parents shouting at drivers, talking on the cell phone while driving, not wearing seat belts and much more.

The key to bringing down that high figure of teenage driving fatalities is for parents to start doing what they say they do (but don’t) and actually practice safe driving practices. For many, that is likely easier said than done. It is hard retraining your self to not slip into bad habits, to not reach for that cell phone or hot cup of coffee while driving. However, if you start driving more safely, the only habits your teens are going to form are good ones.

To give you an idea of what teens say about their parent’s driving habits, about 40% have said that they have actually been scared of something their parents did behind the wheel. Multi-tasking is another big problem that parents perpetuate. Is it really important to change the radio, dial a number on the cell phone and drive with your knees? What did drivers do 25 years ago when cell phones weren’t really around?

Part of why teen driving accidents and fatalities occur is that they have not had any formal instruction prior to obtaining their learner’s permit. What they learned was through observation of their parents. Now that is a scary thought! It is almost criminal that about 30% of teens have had not face time with their parents or practical hands-on knowledge of driving behind the wheel. It is pure parental negligence not to provide some sort of informal training, whether you do it yourself or a family friend.

Teens do need to take some responsibility for their actions however. There are countless safe driving campaigns out there so teens at some point are faced with what is safe and what is not in terms of driving practices. Knowing the difference between right and wrong and then doing something wrong anyway is not the best way to earn the privilege of driving. Parents and teens need to establish open dialog and truly work together to create safe driving habits that both can follow.