Driving Safety

Teen Drivers

  • Some states allow 14- or 15-year-olds to get learner’s driving permits. You have the right to decide whether your teen is ready for it at this age. When you do decide that your child is ready to begin learning supervised driving skills, teach her carefully yourself and enroll her in a comprehensive driving course. These courses are often available through local high schools.
  • Make sure your teenager always wears a seat belt when he rides in or drives a car. Watch to make sure he doesn’t secure the seat belt and then sit on it instead of wearing it.
  • Be clear on what you expect when your teenager drives (or rides in a car with a teenage driver). Get advice from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry’s Helping Your Teen Become a Safe Driver.
  • Emphasize that getting a driver’s license is a privilege, not a right. As a parent, you have the final say in whether your teen is ready to get a license. According to the Federal Highway Administration, only 30 percent of 16-year-olds get a driver’s license, compared to 44 percent who got them 10 years earlier in 1998. It’s okay for you to have your teenager wait until she is older if you feel she’s not ready for a license at 16.
  • Insuring a teen driver can be expensive, but it’s crucial that your teen is covered by an auto insurance policy, whether it’s your teen’s or yours. In many states, it’s illegal to drive a vehicle without insurance, and having an accident while uninsured can be extremely costly, so make sure your teen is covered.
  • Carefully weigh the pros and cons of having your teen get a driver’s license or riding with other teen drivers. (Your teenager will start riding with licensed drivers as soon as the opportunity arises.) Monitor who your teenager is riding with and what kind of driver that teenager is.
  • Don’t be surprised if your child gets a ticket or has a fender bender the first year of having a driver’s license. Many teenagers do. The longer your teenager drives without an accident or ticket, the better.

Kids Riding with Teenage Drivers

  • Whenever your child is getting a ride from someone else, pay attention to the driver. Don’t assume a parent is picking up your child—it may be a new teenage driver behind the wheel.
  • Stress to your child the importance of always wearing seat belts when she rides with someone else. Make sure she understands why she needs to always use a seat belt—even if she is the only one in the car doing so.
  • Ask your child to pay attention to how other people drive. Once he does so, he may have strong opinions about whom he will ride with—and whom he won’t.
  • Be aware that different families have different driving rules. Some families phase in a teenager’s driver’s license by having them drive alone for a period of time before they start adding one passenger at a time. Other families view a driver’s license as the right for a teenager to drive right away with as many kids as they can stuff into the car.
  • Offer to pick your child up if she doesn’t feel safe riding with another teenager—or if the teenage driver has been drinking or using drugs. It’s much better to pick up a teenager than to have her risk her life with an unsafe driver.
  • Compliment teen drivers when you see them making good choices. Even though teenagers (as a group) have the worst driving record of any age group, some are working hard to become good drivers.
 

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