Teen Safe Driver Program Coaches Better Drivers
When I hear families decide against using the Teen Safe Driver Program, I really wonder why. Maybe they think having a camera in the car sounds like Big Brother. From my experience with two boys, this program is worth every argument.
When I first heard about the Teen Safe Driver Program, I wasn’t sure about it, but my husband and son wanted to participate. My husband was convinced by data that shows teens who participate have far fewer accidents over the long term and are safer drivers. My son was convinced because he wanted a break on the insurance bill (he was going to pay for the increase in our insurance premium when he started driving).
Once installed, we sat down every week with our son and reviewed his “incidents.” At first, he whined, “The camera was too sensitive,” or, “I didn’t do anything wrong.” Then his competitive streak kicked in. He wanted to reduce his incidents and be better than his peers. With regular coaching, he quickly learned to drive more smoothly.
He had been driving for about three months when we got the call every parent dreads, “Mom, I’ve had an accident.” I freaked out, but I knew in my heart that my son was a safe driver. (The next morning, Teen Safe Driver folks even called to make sure our son was okay!) He had a ticket and the car was totaled, but he wasn’t hurt. From the tape, we could see that he had his seat belt on, there weren’t other teens in the car, the music wasn’t loud, and he was travelling at the speed limit when the car in front of him suddenly stopped. He was following a little too closely and couldn’t stop in time.
We’re now doing the program with our second son. Like his older brother, he complained the first few weeks and even swore at the camera (yes, you get to hear that, too). When he spun out on an icy road, we got to see all the things he did correctly and thank our stars that he was wearing his seatbelt. We had good conversations about what happened and complimented him on remaining calm and using what he had learned in driving school.
For our family, the camera is a window not a spy, the comments are supportive not judgmental, and the program provokes good, quality conversations, not fights.
Over winter break, my older son drove the car with the camera in it. After a month, he said, “Having the camera was really a good reminder. I’ve gotten safer.” Time to bite your lip and say, “That’s great, honey.”
Editor's note: Molly Wingate is a parenting coach and the author of Slow Parenting Teens, a radical parenting model for building positive, respectful and fun relationships with teens. Learn more at www.slowparentingteens.com.