The freedom of the open road—teens can’t wait for it, but most of the time, parents can. With our traffic and crazy weather, Chicago streets can be dangerous for an inexperienced driver. In fact, drivers ages 16-20 account for about 12 percent of accidents in Illinois, although the number of accidents involving drivers in that age range decreased by 28 percent from 2006 to 2010, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. As parents, there are some steps you can take to help keep your teens driving safely in the city. Here are a few tips:
Enroll your teen in a course. Teens can take a half-day free workshop and safely navigate through a closed course while taking the wheel of 2013 BMW, courtesy of Bridgestone. The Bridgestone Teens Drive Smart Driving Experience is a hands-on training session taught by highly trained driving instructors with the goal to “teach new drivers the skills needed to better handle accident avoidance situations and eliminate distracted driving behaviors.” You must be 21 or younger and have a permit or license to participate.
Get your teen’s high school involved. Operation Teen Safe Drive, sponsored by The Allstate Foundation, selects about 100 regional high schools to develop and implement a peer-to-peer-based teen awareness safe driving program, with $2,000 in grant money awarded to each school. After creating and implementing their programs, each school presents a report. Winners are selected from each region and each will receive prize money to host a post-prom party. Two of the favorite slogans from last year’s program were, “Could you live without me?” and “D.W.I.—Drive with intelligence.” Both of these programs were aimed at educating teens about the dangers of text messaging while driving.
Take in the teen tips. Ford Driving Skills for Life is a website designed to help young drivers improve their skills in four key areas that are critical factors in more than 60 percent of teen vehicle crashes: hazard recognition, vehicle handling, space management and speed management. The site is chock full of teen safety tips and stats, including the more well-known, such as the importance of wearing your seat belt, and others that might not be as well known among teens, such as the importance of tire pressure to safe driving. And, now that Chicago has had our first snows of the year, it’s officially time to check out these winter driving tips.
Brush up on Chicago laws. Starting in January under legislation signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois drivers are banned from the use of hand-held devices while behind the wheel, according to the Chicago Tribune. If you use hands-free technology, you’re in the clear under the law; otherwise, you’ll have to miss the call, pull over to a safe place to take it, or get a $75 fine. Refer to the State of Illinois’ 2013 Rules of the Road for more statewide driving laws.
Make sure your teen gets hands-on experience. Your teen can get behind the wheel with the Teen Driver Safety Foundation’s New Driver Car Control Clinic. The clinic is a hands-on program that teaches new drivers and their parents how to gain control of their car should the unexpected occur. Tuition is $179 per parent-student team; check back for an updated 2014 schedule.
Know more about your insurance. Under Illinois law, you must have car insurance before you drive, and driving without it can lead to fines or the suspension of your driver’s license, according to the Illinois Department of Insurance. So, before your teen takes the wheel, it’s a good idea to explore the insurance options available to him or her. Talk to your insurance agent for more information about insurance coverage.
With the proper preparation and safety knowledge, you can feel more secure each time your son or daughter gets behind the wheel, especially in a busting city like Chicago.