By Sue Hubbard, M.D.

If you're the parent of a teenage driver, it can be a bit nervewracking! The best way to keep your nerves in check is to establish and enforce the rules of the road.

Studies have shown that parents who initially limit their teens driving privileges have fewer traffic tickets and accidents than teens whose parents don't apply restrictions.

I'm a huge advocate of graduated drivers licenses and driving contracts between parents and their new teen drivers. Motor vehicle injuries continue to be the leading cause of death in teens with approximately 4,200 deaths per year. Teenage accidents and injuries also resulted in over 380,000 emergency room visits in 2007.

To reduce the risk of injury and death, studies have shown the importance of graduated drivers licenses (GDL), which are now in effect in 49 states and the District of Columbia. But in order for GDL to work, parents must be aware of the laws in their states and then enforce these laws with their teens.

The GDL program gradually phases in driving privileges for new teen drivers as they gain experience behind the wheel.

I've seen too many parents of teens in my practice who are either not familiar with the concept of GDL, or who don't feel that these rules need to be enforced. What are they thinking? Anything that may prevent teenage car accidents and injury is something we should all be aware of, as there's really nothing more frightening to me than putting your child behind the wheel of a car!

To help increase awareness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed a campaign targeting the parents of teen drivers. "Parents are the Key" is being tested in several states. This campaign will help parents manage their teens driving behaviors while simultaneously educating teens about high-risk activities that may lead to car accidents. Things like drinking and driving, number of passengers in their car, banning cell phone use and texting while driving, and limiting driving after dark all help reduce accidents and death.

The CDC has information on its website about National Teen Driver Safety Week. Take advantage of this opportunity, especially if you have a teen who's begging to start driving! The responsibilities with obtaining a driver's license need to involve both parent and teen.

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Parenting - How to Keep Your Teen Safe Behind the Wheel