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Safety Tips for Your Teen

Helping Your Child Learn Safe Driving Habits

Few experiences are more terrifying for parents than handing the car keys to their teenager on a hot summer night. Dan Olmsted, president of Atlantic Mutual Insurance, should know - his son just started driving.

"Parents have good reason to be concerned," said Olmsted. "Traffic crashes account for 44 percent of teen fatalities, more than any other cause, and driving at night with other teenage friends in the car just about tops the list of risk-laden situations."

Besides the fear of injury to their teen, parents also have to consider their liability risks. If a minor on their insurance policy gets into an accident in which a third party suffers serious injury or property damage, the parents could be held responsible for costs high enough to threaten their financial well-being.

To help parents who have, or are close to having, a teen driver at home, Atlantic Mutual is offering advice which can be downloaded for free from

Some guidelines are:

1. Create a driving contract. Sit down with your teen and develop a written contract that covers topics such as when he or she can use the car, where and how far he or she can drive, seatbelts, cell phones, alcohol, passengers, curfews, and the consequences of breaking the rules. Make some commitments yourself, such as promising to pick him or her up if trouble arises -- without asking questions until the next day.

2. Remember that experience leads to better decision making. If you restrict driving as a punishment while your teen is still in the permit stage, he or she will miss out on valuable experience when you are in the car. Inexperience is a key factor in the higher crash rates of teens, especially in the first year. Try another punishment or consequence if your teen breaks a rule.

3. Check state laws for teen drivers; empower yourself to go beyond them. Many states have graduated licensing programs that introduce greater levels of responsibility in stages. Use them as a base, and seek out expert advice and use your good judgment to set additional rules, if needed. Don't necessarily stop at the law or follow what other parents are doing.

"Nothing will make your teen drive perfectly and take all of the anxiety away," said Olmsted. "But with planning, clear communication, and a firmly enforced set of rules, parents can rely on a lot more than prayer and a large helping of trust when they hand over the keys."

(Source: Atlantic Mutual)