"Better a thousand times careful than once dead." -Proverb
Life is a wide-open highway for any teenager preparing to get his or her driver's license. Perhaps your sixteen years old has taken and proudly passed his driver's education course, all of his friends are getting their driver's licenses, and the law says that your child is ready to get behind the wheel of a vehicle. But is he?
Age is certainly not the only factor that should determine whether or not your teenager is ready to drive. The teen years are an extremely challenging time in almost every aspect of life, whether it be learning how to deal with emotional stress, academic stress, pressures from peers, or problems with parents. Adding the responsibility of maneuvering three thousand pounds of metal down crowded city streets and busy highways is a heavy load for any teenager's shoulders.
As adults, we can look back and remember what it was like when we first started driving. Some of us were ready to hit the road with a heavy foot on the gas pedal. Others of us were more reserved, nervous, and reluctant to take the wheel. Every teenager is different. Not all will be ready to drive the moment they turn 16. As parents, it is our job to keep our children safe. An important way to do this for your teenager is to make yourself aware of your child's driving ability and readiness as well as their emotional and mental readiness as it relates to driving. That little person who used to sing their ABC's in the car seat behind you has now crawled his way up into the front seat, grown three to six feet, and taken control of the vehicle. It can be a frightening thought.
Teen driving statistics are even more frightening.
According to the CDC, nine teenagers, ages 16 to 19, died every day from motor vehicle injuries in 2008. In the same year, 350,000 teenagers were injured in car accidents badly enough to require emergency room care.
For more teen driving statistics, click here:
Remember how much care and caution you took when it was time to pick out your child's car seat? Think back and remember how much time you spent just ensuring that he or she was strapped incorrectly. The same amount of care, if not more, should be given to preparing your teenager to drive. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Remember, and be sure that your child remembers that driving is a privilege. Sit down with your child and talk about the seriousness of driving and the responsibility it holds. Remind your child that every time he gets out on the road, the potential to harm himself and others exists. Remind him that it is his responsibility, as a motorist, to do everything in his power to make smart driving decisions that will keep himself, his passengers, and others on the road safe.
- Set a good example for your child by always wearing your seat belt and following all driving laws.
- Have specific rules set in place before your child starts driving. Rules will vary according to each parenting style, but a few suggestions can be found here: http://www.anythingaboutcars.com/teendriving.html Make sure that your expectations are clear and try to remind your teenager of those expectations from time to time, even if they do roll their eyes and an exasperated "I know, Mom/Dad." escapes from their lips.
- Drive with your teen. Even after he obtains a driver's license, it is a good idea to ride with your child occasionally. This way you can see their mistakes and driving weaknesses first hand. Gently point these out to your child, while giving simple tips to help better their driving techniques. Giving praise for good driving habits or smart navigating skills always helps too.
- Take time to reflect on your own early driving experiences. Be open and talk with your teen about the things you learned or the mistakes you made. Perhaps your child can learn from your mistakes before they make their own.
- Know your child. This is difficult to accomplish during the teenage years. Many teens shut off from their parents, so communicating with your child becomes tricky. But don't give up on your child during this important time of his life. Find new ways to help your child open up to you, and try new tactics when the old ones fail. The more you know your child, the more you can trust him. With driving comes a large amount of new freedom for your teenager, and you want to be sure you can trust him to tell you where he is going, with whom he is going, and what activities will be involved. According to the CDC, in 2008, 25 % of drivers, aged 15-20 who died in car crashes had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. It is statistics like these that necessitate our obligation to know what our children are becoming involved in.
- Educate yourself and your teenager about smart driving and teen driving statistics. Don't assume the driver's education course is enough. Have talks with your child about this exciting time in their life, while also stressing the seriousness of this new experience. The following websites are a great way to get started:
These are interactive sites and relate to parents and teenagers alike. Take some time to look at these together with your child.
As a parent, only you can determine when your teenager is ready to drive safely. You know your child best, and even though he or she may think they are ready, remember that your child's safety should always come first, however unpopular that might appear to your teenager. We can lower teen driving statistics, and make our roads a safer place. Please do your part to ensure that your teen is well prepared to hit the road, and make it back home, safe and sound.