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Tips for helping your teen become a safe driver

Is your teen learning how to drive this summer or perhaps next school year? If so, your time with them as they get experience behind the wheel will be just as important -- if not more so -- than the time they'll be spending with their driver's ed instructor.

Parents can be good -- or poor -- examples for their kids long before they're old enough to take the wheel themselves. Even if you haven't been the best role model for safe driving in the past, it's not too late to turn that around so that you're teaching them the same driving behaviors you display --such as keeping your cellphone off.

If you don't, your kids are less likely to pay attention to what you're telling them. More importantly, they may think that all of those precautions they're learning from their driver's ed instructor are necessary only until they've passed their road test.

It's important to take your child on practice drives in a variety of areas and driving situations -- both on neighborhood streets and highways. When your child is just beginning to get comfortable behind the wheel, it's best to schedule practice drives at times when traffic isn't heavy or on roads that aren't busy. You can progress to more challenging situations later.

Remaining calm is often one of the biggest challenges for parents of teen drivers. Don't bring whatever drama may have occurred over a bad grade or a missed curfew into the car. Your role is to teach. While you'll need to correct them at times, it's important not to yell or be too critical.

As the head of one driving school says, "The calmer I talk to kids, the more I get out of them." If a practice drive has devolved into shouting and/or tears, call it a day and try it again later or let your spouse take a turn next time.

One reason teen drivers are at greater risk of being involved in a crash than older drivers is that they don't have the skills and experience to react quickly and appropriately when another driver makes a dangerous or unexpected move. If your teen is injured in a crash caused by another driver, be sure that you know what your options are for seeking the compensation you need for medical bills and other expenses.

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