Getting a license is one of life's major milestones. There's no doubt that FINALLY being able to drive on your own is something every teen cannot wait to do. But how sure are you that your young driver is ready to take on the road all on their own? We look for the best car seat, the best daycare, but when your kids are ready to learn to drive, parents should help them the best drivers they can be. Safe driving is really about judgment. At the start of their driving career risk management and decision making while driving has not developed yet. Your teens biggest threat is their inexperience.
Did you know that the #1 threat to your teen's safety is driving or riding in a car with another teen driver? (cdc.gov).
Here are 5 tips to help keep your teen safe on the road:
- Utilize the Graduated Driver License (GDL) Program- this gives a driver the opportunity to improve their driving skills over time. Phase One is the learners permit. Which must be held for 6 months prior to obtaining a provisional license. Phase Two is the provisional license. Drivers education and time behind the wheel are required prior to taking the driver's test. Once these are completed a driver can graduate with a provisional license. At this stage, drivers are allowed one passenger under 21 who is not a family member in the vehicle and must be off the road between midnight and 5:00 a.m. unless certain circumstances. Individuals under 18 are restricted from using a cell phone including hands-free devices until they reach 18. The graduate program is required by law for drivers under the age of 18. Get all the details on the program here.
- Let Your Teen Drive- the best thing you can do for your teen is let them drive! Young drivers need to gain confidence behind the wheel. This is the perfect opportunity to discuss different driving scenarios and to pass on your driving knowledge. Practice driving in different weather conditions in large parking lots to get a feel for driving in rain or snow. Parents play a key role. When asked whose opinion they listen to, teens mostly said their parents. The biggest challenges are inexperience and distractions.
- Set Rules and Expectations- from the get-go your teen needs to know that you want them to the safest driver they can be. Sit down together and set some ground rules and expectations. For example, no cell phone use while driving, no food in the car, no passengers for a certain period of time, setting a driving curfew, always wear a seatbelt, no reckless driving, and no impaired driving. Being involved in their driving development holds your child accountable. When they show progress, good skill and driving maturity certain privileges can be added over time.
- Set Up Consequences- Your teen needs to understand that driving is a privilege. Go over the rules and expectations together. Write them down and set up consequences. Your teen will respect the rules and expectations when they know they are being monitored and there are consequences. As parents, it's important to show your teen you care about their safety. Lose of driving privileges is a big one. Come home after curfew and you lose the right to drive. Whatever the consequences are, stick to them.
- Be an example, set up an agreement and be open- the best thing we can do for our new drivers is be the best example. Kids learn from their parents. Set up an agreement with the expectations and consequences. Refer and adjust it when necessary. Kids understand that there is a major risk when driving a vehicle. The challenge is when they are at the moment they may make the wrong decision. Be open and transparent with them, ask them their fears. Help them practice their driving even after graduating periodically. Copy of an agreement can be found here.
Parents play a key role in their child's driving progress. Overall, showing you care, offering them guidance, listening to their concerns, setting expectations and being authoritative can be the difference in life and death. Progressively give them privileges as they show they can handle the responsibilities. Your teen will feel more confident behind the wheel and in return be a safe driver. For more details on how to be the key in your teens driving visit https://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/
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