By Darlene Wakim
It can be a scary thing to raise a teenager, especially when they are ready to get behind the wheel! Even more frightening is the thought of dangerous drivers out on the streets with your teenager who hasn’t had the foresight and experience an adult driver has. The thought can intensify any parent’s fear.
With all the new traffic laws in Kuwait and stricter regulations by the Ministry of Interior, Kuwait has seen a drop in traffic accidents and deaths since last year. In May 2013, 15 deaths were reported due to traffic accidents as compared to 34 for the period of last year.
These are reassuring statistics; however teen drivers are still at a high-risk category for vehicle accidents. The most common reason for teenage car accidents is excessive speed. Driving too fast on roads that are not fit for the purpose (such as desert roads, or non-paved roads) is also another leading cause of accidents.
Newly licensed drivers are especially vulnerable because they ordinarily haven’t had enough driving time to master the complex split-second decision making that fast driving requires. With the addition of passengers, the risk of danger increases. Enquirer research into fatal teen crashes since 2000 found that the greatest dangers are after school and at the beginning and end of the school year. Teenagers find “hitting the gas” a thrill after a boring day at school.
So what can you do as a parent? Here’s a list of tips that will help make your teen a better driver, and you a more comfortable parent.
- Take your child to driver’s education, and supplement it with plenty of supervised practice. Try taking them out during various weather and driving conditions. Experts recommend that teens have at least 200 hours of driving before applying for a license.
- You are the best role model in your child’s life, so buckle up consistently. Obey traffic rules, never speed, and refrain from talking on the mobile phone while driving. Also be courteous to other drivers and pedestrians and try to stay calm when traffic is hectic.
- Create a driving agreement between you and your teen. Make sure to include the following stipulations:
- Obey all traffic laws
- Wear seatbelts and require passengers to do so as well
- Never use illegal substances and allow passengers to do so
- Never talk on the phone while driving
- Be responsible for keeping the car in good serviceable condition and regularly checking tires
- Pay for petrol and be responsible as part owner of the car
- Maintain a certain grade-point average at school
- Tell you where they are going, what route they are taking and when they will return
- Phone home if they are too sleepy to drive and return home.
- Don’t buy your teen a car as soon as they get their license. If they have to use your car, at least you will have more control over where and how much they drive. Consider a purchase when they are experienced enough and have shown that they can handle driving privileges maturely.
- If you’re going to buy them a car, be moderate. Get a medium sized car that has a good safety rating and good airbag protection. Small cars are light and lack the crash protection of larger vehicles. Large vehicles are prone to flips and can do a lot of damage in a crash.
Darlene Wakim (M.A. Comm. GDPS, Psychotherapist) offers personal psychotherapy and counseling in Kuwait and can be reached by email at [email protected]