A Positive Approach to Teaching Teenagers Good Driving Skills Which Help Reduce Personal Injuries and Deaths Related to Auto Accidents.

teenagerIt’s no secret that car crashes are the number one cause of death and serious personal injuries among teenagers. As parents, we are constantly reminding our kids of the dangers of driving, and things not to do when they are behind the wheel. As an Alameda personal injury lawyer, I am always looking for more ways to improve driver training and safety. Now, a major insurance company and experts from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia are recommending a new approach to driver training for teenagers–positive reinforcement. They call the campaign “Celebrate My Drive.”

The premise of this campaign is that scare tactics don’t work with teenagers. (They all think they’re invincible, don’t they?) So telling them gory stories at the dinner table about the latest teenage tragedy on the road, or repeating for the umpteenth time the dangers of texting and driving just doesn’t seem to phase them. So you might try what is now being recommended in this campaign.

According to a pediatrician at the Center for Injury and Prevention at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the best way to adopt positive behaviors is to provide positive reinforcement. “Its much easier to teach somebody to do a behavior, make them feel they can master a behavior,” than being negative. Rather than telling the kids what they shouldn’t be doing, or what they did wrong, try to give advice in a positive manner.

When taking your kids out for their first driving lessons, if you help you child gain mastery over each driving skill they learn one at a time, this will make them feel much more competent and self-assured behind the wheel. You might start with starting the car moving slowly, then smooth stopping, then driving straight without swerving and so forth. Practicing each skill over and over before moving onto learning the next skill will boost their confidence while enhancing their skill levels.

Once your child has passed the driver’s test, the learning shouldn’t stop there. The parent should let the child drive with the parent in the car as much as possible (By the way the lowest risk of a teenager having a car accident is when a parent is in the car. On the other hand, when two or more other teenagers are in the car, without an adult, the risk of the teenager having an injury accident increases by fivefold). As you are watching your child drive, reinforce all of the good skills that are being used by the child by complementing them specifically on that behavior. One of my pet peeves is following too closely. So I always complement my kids whenever I see that they have left a nice amount of space between our car and the car in front of them.

With regard to cell phone use, when your child turns his phone off upon entering the car, you can recognize how he/she is respecting the rights and well being of other drivers by turning the phone off and driving safely. There are many ways that we can be creative to positively reinforce our child’s good safe driving habits. Just remember the old adage: “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” It’s true with teaching our kids safe driving skills as well.


Cheer Up: It’s just Your Child Behind The Wheel, NPR, July 30, 2012

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