What parents should know before letting their teens drive

Distractions, video games and inexperience can contribute to teen driver crashes. Parents should be proactive in promoting safe driving habits.

The freedom that comes with a driver's license is an event that many teens in Pennsylvania have anticipated for years. When the day arrives, it brings some anxiety with it for parents, though.

To improve safety for young drivers, Pennsylvania has a graduated driver's license program that enforces some extra restrictions, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Sixty-five hours of practice and passenger limitations do not address every safety issue, though. Here are a couple of things that parents may want to consider before handing over the keys.

Identifying distractions

According to Distraction.gov, driver distractions include anything that takes attention, hands or eyes away from the task of driving. A study conducted by the American Automobile Association used cameras placed in vehicles to identify sources of teen distraction. These included the following:

• Using a cell phone

• Reaching for something

• Talking to a passenger

• Eating and drinking

• Grooming

• Adjusting vehicle controls

When teens in the study were involved in moderate to severe collisions, 60 percent were distracted, ABC News reports. Texting was not the biggest culprit though; instead, it was conversations with passengers.

Limiting video games

Health care providers urge parents to limit teens' screen time and encourage more activity, but they may also want to turn off the video games to improve driving skills, according to Geico.com. More than one study has linked bad driving behaviors to video games that include violence or simulated racing.

Teens who played violent games rated "mature" were more likely to drive aggressively or recklessly. Those who played racing games before getting behind the wheel were also more aggressive, and often drove over the speed limit.

Preventing accidents

To counter the effects without tossing the console in the trash, parents can help teens by discussing the hazards of aggressive driving behaviors such as tailgating and speeding. Turning the game off an hour or two before driving has proven effective, as well.

Above all, teens need practice in a variety of conditions, including at night and during inclement weather. ABC News encourages parents to supervise rather than merely riding along, teaching defensive driving techniques and modelling the importance of being alert at all times behind the wheel.

Aggressive, reckless, negligent and distracted drivers put themselves and others at risk. Even when the teen driver is not harmed, the results of a collision can change his or her life forever. Victims of a crash may contact an attorney who ensures that the person responsible is held liable for all damages, including lost wages and pain and suffering.