You’re right to worry that your teenaged son or daughter isn’t listening when you tell them how to behave behind the wheel. Year after year, studies have shown that car accidents are the biggest cause of death for children under age 20—and that young, inexperienced drivers are more likely to cause crashes.

While you may talk to your children regularly about the dangers of reckless driving, actions often speak louder than words when it comes to encouraging safe behavior. Next time you’re concerned about your child’s driving habits, consider these alternatives to talking:

  • Practice, practice, practice. Just because your teen has received his license does not mean you shouldn’t ride with him. Chances are he will be on his best behavior when you ride with him, which helps to reinforce these patterns when he’s driving alone.
  • “Real” accidents. Many schools stage mock accident scenes—complete with bloody victims—for teenagers to attend to learn the exact effects a crash has on the human body. Although these scenes may seem gory or frightening, the image of someone their age lying on the ground is likely to make students think twice about engaging in risky road behavior.
  • Ask questions. Your teenager might “tune out” your safe driving chats because you’re the only one who’s talking. Instead of sitting them down for a lecture, ask them which route they prefer to take on their drive home from work. If they would rather take the back roads than risk the traffic and high speeds on I-435, you may want to encourage more highway practice time.
  • Use positive reinforcement. Teenagers are often struggling to become independent, and treating them as such can help them make better decisions on their own. If they perform their own car maintenance, make sure to get the oil changed regularly, or practice safe behaviors with you in the car, make sure to tell them that you noticed and that you are proud.

Want to get the conversation started with your child? Share this article with him or her on Facebook or send them a link to this page via email to let them know your concerns.

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.