HELPING YOUR TEEN BECOME A SAFE DRIVE
A driver's license is one of the biggest status symbols among
high school students. Getting a driver's license is not only a
social asset but it makes the adolescent feel more independent
than ever before. Parents no longer have to do the driving - the
teen can get places on his or her own. Most teens count the hours
and days until they can get their learners permit (usually age
16) and take their driving test to demonstrate driving competence.
Some teens however, may be pushed to drive by peer or parental
pressures before they feel ready. Parents often have many concerns
and fear for their teen's safety on the road.
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), teenage
drivers account for only 7% of the driving population but are
involved in 14% of fatal crashes. Traffic crashes are the #1 cause
of death and injury for people ages 15-19. In 1998, more than
6,300 teens died in motor vehicle collisions. Problems which contribute
to the high crash rate of young drivers include: driving inexperience,
lack of adequate driving skills, risk taking, poor driving judgement
and decision making, alcohol consumption and excessive driving
during high risk hours (11PM-5AM).
Learning to Drive (Learner's Permit)
When a teenager obtains a learner's permit they can start learning
to drive with an adult present in the car to supervise and teach.
In most cases the best way for teens to learn to drive is through
a driver's education class. These classes are often sponsored
by schools. In many states, completing a driver's education course
results in reduction of the teen's automobile insurance costs.
Private driving instruction is another alternative. AAA offers
a training program (available on video or CD-ROM) "Teaching Your
Teens to Drive: A Partnership for Survival". One teenager has
even developed a website specifically for teens learning to drive
("Teen New Driver Homepage" - www.teendriving.com). Parents are
in a unique position to show their children proper driving skills
and to teach proper driving choices. Teen drivers need to get
as much driving experience as possible after they obtain their
learner's permit. Lots of driving experience generally makes the
teen a safer driver and eases the transition to driving independently.
However, not all parents have the temperament to teach driving.
Parents who find themselves yelling, making sarcastic remarks
or being upsetting to the teen should ask their spouse, another
relative or friend to help out.
The Driver' License (Driving Independently)
When teens pass the official driving test they receive their driver'
license and can legally drive independently (some states have
restrictions on 17 year old drivers). Parents, however, should
not allow their teen to drive independently until the teen has
sufficient experience and the parents are comfortable with the
teen's level of driving skill. Parents should talk candidly with
their teen about the dangers and risks of distractions such as
music from radio/tape/CD player, passengers, eating food and using
cell phones. Parents should also discuss and demonstrate the importance
of controlling emotions while driving (e.g. "road rage", drag
racing, etc.). Teens should also be taught about the importance
of defensive driving. Inexperienced drivers often concentrate
on driving correctly and fail to anticipate the actions and mistakes
or errors of other drivers. If the teen is taking medications
(prescription or over-the-counter) or has any medical illnesses,
parents should check with their family physician about possible
effects on the teen's driving ability.
Additionally, parents should make sure that the vehicle their
teen drives is in safe condition (brakes, tires, etc.) and working
properly. The vehicle should have essential emergency equipment
(flares, flashlight, jumper cables, etc.) and the teen should
know how to use it. A cell phone is helpful for emergencies but
parents must stress that it can be a dangerous distraction if
it is used while driving.
Concern about the number of young people killed or injured in
traffic crashes has prompted state legislation to reform the way
teenagers are licensed to drive. A majority of states have adopted
the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system with varying state
requirements. Recommended by the AAA, the GDL has teens earn driving
privileges in a three-stage process: learner's permit at age 16,
a probationary license after 6 months and an unrestricted driver's
license at age 18.
Even though the driver's license allows the teen to drive independently,
it is important that parents establish clear rules for safe and
responsible driving and rules for the use of the car.
Rules for New Drivers
Rules for parents to consider when teens begin driving independently
- Parents should not allow young drivers unrestricted driving
privileges until they have gained sufficient experience.
- Parents should limit their teen's driving alone in adverse
weather conditions (rain, snow, ice, fog. etc.) and at night
until the teen has sufficient skills and experience.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal
and dangerous and should be strictly prohibited.
- Parents should work out when and where the teen is allowed
to drive the car (e.g. to and from part-time job, etc.).
- Everyone in the car must wear seat belts at all times.
- Parents should determine whether and when their teen can drive
passengers. Some states have established a law that no passengers
are allowed in the car until the teen has logged a defined period
of safe independent driving
- Parents should determine what behavior or circumstances will
result in loss of the teen's driving privileges.
- Teens should not drive when fatigued or tired.
- Headphones should never be worn while driving.
- Helmets must be worn when riding a motorcycle.
- Teens should be encouraged to take an annual defensive driving
course after obtaining their license.
Supervised behind-the-wheel driving experience is the key to
developing necessary habits and skills for safe driving. Parents
need to work with their teens to help them gain the needed experience
Daycare.com would like to thank American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry for this information
in striving to make daycare and childcare a more productive and
efficient service. You can contact them at: 3615 Wisconsin Ave.,
N.W., Washington, D.C. 20016-3007 voice: 202-966-7300 fax: 202-966-2891.