Road Risk: I used to routinely go 5 to 7 miles over the limit—10 on the highway—until I noticed my kids eyeing the speedometer. Adolescents are already hardwired for excitement and don't need any more encouragement from parents; 94% of teens speed, according to Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD. And no matter how high-tech, seat belts, airbags and front-end crush zones don't offer immunity from serious collisions.
Auto Correct: Constantly remind your kids that yes, speed kills. It's fine to guilt-trip them by citing the damage to your pocketbook. Teens aren't deterred by the possibility of getting a ticket, but they're not paying the insurance premiums, which can rise on average as much as 22% after a single moving violation, according to Insurance.com. Playing Big Brother also works. Free apps like DriveScribe (Android, iPhone) immediately notify you via text or email if your teen is going too fast, braking hard or running a stop sign. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that electronic monitoring reduces risky behavior—teens are more likely to wear seat belts and stick to the speed limit.
Road Risk: We live in a 1920s house in Michigan with no garage, so on snowy days I'd give the windows a quick scrape before leaving home, relying on the defroster to do the rest. Last winter, my son followed my lead. He'd only driven a block before he was stopped and given a $130 citation for having an obstructed windshield. I was shocked, unaware such a penalty even existed. But that's not my only concern: Snow and ice are especially treacherous for those with less experience, who tend not to adjust their driving to rough conditions.
Auto Correct: Fact is, only 25% of parents plan to have their teen practice in a variety of weather conditions. To thoroughly prepare your teen, make sure she's comfortable with every situation she might encounter: torrential downpours, blinding fog, pounding sleet. If she gets her license in the summer, insist on a refresher course once winter arrives. Many driving schools offer classes geared specifically to coping with the seasons, and there are free online programs, like Ford Driving Skills for Life (driving skillsforlife.com). Teens should also do test runs on a variety of roads—rural and urban, school zones and interstates.
Gender Gap: Boys are more than three times as likely as girls to drive under the influence of marijuana and alcohol, and almost twice as likely to not wear a seat belt. Girls are three times as likely as boys to hold a cell phone to their ear and nearly twice as likely to become distracted by electronic devices.
Originally published in the April 2014 issue of Family Circle magazine.