Are You and Your Teen Ready for Summer Driving?

Summer Roads Are Not as Carefree as They May Seem

By Morgan Cihak

Summer is nearly upon us, and while many look forward to some free time to kick back and relax, it is definitely not the time to relax behind the wheel.

Summer roads are not as carefree as they may seem. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, parents, students and vacationers are out on the roads in greater numbers – for graduations, cookouts and general fun in the sun.

May, Global Youth Traffic Safety Month, kicks off a time of increased teen driving. You may feel that your teen is ready to take on summer driving, but these months are especially dangerous for inexperienced drivers, and car crashes are still the number one killer of teens. Rather than loosening the rules for your teen, reinforce safe driving habits and continue to practice with your teens in different situations.

Summer is a great time for your teen to gain driving experience, as long as he or she is prepared. Keep in mind the following summer driving hazards:

  • Heavy traffic on highways
  • Construction on rural and urban roads
  • Pedestrians and bicyclists sharing the roadways
  • Motorcyclists
  • Large families and groups crossing the street in both directions
  • Cramped parking and busy parking lots
  • Children and pets darting out into the street

Summer vacations offer great opportunities for teens to learn from you and how you drive. If your family rents a car, show your teen how to inspect the vehicle, adjust the mirrors and learn which safety features are present in the vehicle getting out on the road. This will show your teen that even experienced drivers need to pay careful attention and take steps to stay safe every time they get behind the wheel.

You should also talk to your teen about how to handle driving risks when you aren’t around. Nighttime and drowsy driving pose significant dangers to teens, as does riding with passengers – especially other teens. Keep that in mind for prom and graduation season too. Make yourself available so that your teen knows it is better to call you for a ride than to risk driving home late at night or riding home with a friend. Or better yet, splurging on a limo will not only get you ‘cool parent’ bragging rights, but would also be a much safer choice for your teen.

With all of these summer activities and the associated crowding of roadways, your teen driver needs your support when behind the wheel.

Over the summer break, many drivers, passengers and pedestrians lose their lives in crashes, and many more are seriously injured. Make sure teens have the chance to practice with you before going out on their own. Reinforce the importance of having a designated sober driving, avoiding distractions and keeping each other safe. Let’s avoid tragedy, and make sure summer is a time for fun.

— Morgan Cihak is a program manager at the National Safety Council