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Tim Hollister: My top 5 pointers for parents of teen drivers

The following guest post was written by Tim Hollister, of Hartford, Connecticut.  Tim’s 17 year old some Reid died in a one-car crash in 2006.  Since then, Tim has gone on to become a nationally-known advocate for safer teen driving, first through his national blog for parents, “From Reid’s Dad,” www.fromreidsdad.org, and now in his new book “NOT SO FAST: Parenting your Teen through the Dangers of Driving,” published last month by the Chicago Review Press: www.nsfteendriving.com.

I have been blogging about safe teen driving for four years, and my blog has now turned into a book, but quite understandably, parents often ask me to prioritize my advice.  They ask - what are your top ten? -- or five? or three? -- pointers for parents of teen drivers?  Here is my Top Five List.  Please note that none of them has anything to do with teaching a teen how to drive a car.  My focus is informed, proactive supervision of teen drivers BEFORE they get behind the wheel:

1. The human brain is not fully developed until we reach our mid 20’s, and the last part of the brain that develops is the part that provides judgment and restraint.  This is a limitation on the ability of teen drivers that Drivers Ed, training, and good intentions cannot overcome.

2.  Most of the situations that result in teen driver crashes are predictable - we have years of statistics on what they are.  Therefore, a parent’s job is not just to teach a teen to drive, but to beware and preempt these situation before their teens get behind the wheel.

3.  Parents should treat newer drivers like pilots of an airplane, by preparing a “flight plan” covering safety each time a teen gets behind the wheel.

4. Parent need to understand the critical difference between purposeful driving (teens with a destination, a route, and reason to arrive safety and on time) and joyriding (teens in a car for fun).  The latter is much more dangerous.

5.  For electronic devices of all types, the only rule that makes sense for teen drivers, though difficult to enforce, is zero tolerance.  This means the cellphone goes in the glove box before the car starts and stays there until the car is turned off, and it also mean teens should not use the ever-increasing array of dashboard mounted technology, such as a screen with interactive Internet access, in newer model cars.