Remember the first time your teen asked you to let them get behind-the-wheel? You easily said no because they were not old enough to drive. There was a sigh of relief as you still had a few years before you had to cross that bridge. Things have changed now, and time has passed, now they can legally get their license. It is both an emotional moment and at the same time a very scary one. Emotional because you child has grown so much and is now one step closer to becoming a responsible adult and scary because you know that crashes are still the leading cause of teen death. You are hesitant about handing the keys to a 3000-pound driving machine, but you also know that you cannot hinder their freedom. In a way, you felt similar emotions and fear before every big step, the first time they walked, their first day of school, their first field trip without you, their first sleep over, and you know that this won’t be the last time you feel this way. You must learn to trust your teen who is on his/her way to becoming a responsible adult. There will be mistakes along the way but all you can do is guide them and prepare them in the best possible way and have faith that they will make informed and responsible decisions behind-the-wheel.
Teen driving is always in the news for all the bad reasons. All the statistics go against the teen’s argument when they are trying to convince you to let them “be free”. One thing is certain: teens aren’t ready to have the same level of driving responsibility as adults. It is natural to think of your teen when you are reading chilling facts such as “teen drivers have a higher rate of fatal crashes, mainly because of their immaturity, lack of skills, and lack of experience.” You can’t help but picture your teen in a situation where there is teen car racing, drunk driving, distracted driving, and of course the peer pressure to “drive faster.” Facts such as “dialing a phone number while driving increases your teen’s risk of crashing by six times, and texting while driving increases the risk by 23 time” makes you skip a heartbeat. But some parents tend to forget that they were teenagers once too and how badly they wanted to drive or perhaps they don’t forget and that is one of the reasons why they are so scared now because of their own experiences from the past. Regardless, you have come a long way and you know that experience and good driving habits ensure your safety and the safety of other drivers around you. Here is what you can do:
Learn about your state’s driving license laws – you must familiarize yourself with the state’s driving license laws in order to make sure that your teen is following certain restrictions and limitations on his/her license. Teaching your teenagers to follow rules and regulations early on will help them become a more responsible driver in the long run as well. Some states restrict night driving and passengers, make sure your teen knows these laws. One of the most important one is the ban on the use of cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. Make sure they are always wearing a seat belt.
Instilling the negative effects of driving under the influence, the use of drugs and underage drinking in your child’s education is extremely important. Teaching them that driving license is a privilege that can easily be taken away if these rules are broken. Helping them understand that the burden of guilt when someone else gets hurt because of their irresponsible behavior on the road is too heavy and never worth any amount of “fun” they had that night. Show your teen the scary stats like, in 2016, almost one out of five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had been drinking. If they are lucky enough to survive the crash after drinking and driving, they are possibly going to jail and losing their license. It may also have an adverse effect on their college career or their jobs. Show them the stats about lives that were lost when the teens were not wearing seat belts. In 2016, a total of 818 teen drivers and 569 passengers died in passenger vehicles driven by teen drivers, and 58 percent of those passengers were NOT wearing their seat belts at the time of the fatal crash. As a parent, you must also buckle up every time you get in the car to show the importance of seat belts to your teenager.
Your teen is working hard in school, participating in extra curricular activities, and holds a part-time job. Their lives are not as easy as you may think, and they do get tired as well. As parents, you should teach them about the dangers of drowsy driving. In 2016, drowsy driving claimed 803 lives, make sure your child is well rested before getting behind-the-wheel.
One of the most important things you can do is be a good role model yourself. When your child sees you practice road rage, drinking and driving, distracted driving, and other irresponsible and dangerous behaviors, it becomes “ok” for them to act that way as well. Be a good role model as your child will follow your lead.
Although the driver’s education class is an imperative step towards your teen’s pathway to their driver’s license, don’t solely rely on these classes. You must dedicate time teaching your child how to drive properly, confidently and without fear.
Even though most parents believe that their child has become “distant” in their teen years but you, as parents, have a lot more influence on your teen than you may think. Stay involved in their lives while also trusting them that they will make responsible choices. After all, you survived your teenage years and turned out great too.