What You Don’t Know… Can Hurt Your Teen!
Ask any parent about their teen starting to drive and you’ll get some very entertaining reactions: grimaces, cringing and worried sighs. Everyone knows that learning to drive is a huge milestone that should be taken seriously. But a lot of parents don’t know some very important facts about this phase of their family’s life.
1. Motor vehicle crashes are actually the leading cause of death for 15 – 20 year olds in the United States. But being a teenage PASSENGER is almost more deadly, because about two thirds of those killed are riding in a car driven by another teen. Parents should not only be concerned when their own teen is driving. Tell your teens to consider themselves co-pilots instead of passengers, ESPECIALLY when another teen is driving.
2. The phase while a teenager has their learner’s permit is actually a very SAFE time, with a crash rate of only about 1%. That’s much lower than the 8% crash rate of most adults. However, when a teen gets their driver’s license their crash rate skyrockets to about 50% in the first six months. That’s not a typo! About HALF of every new teen drivers will have a collision in their first six months of driving. Parents need to understand that the truly risky time is when their child is driving without any adult supervision. Parents need to give their teens lots of practice time while they have a learner’s permit, so they can develop mature driving skills BEFORE they get their license.
3. Most states now have “graduated licensing laws.” These are rules about cell phone use, curfew times and numbers of passengers in the car for younger drivers. These are guidelines that can cost you! If your teen has a crash while violating those rules, then the law treats them as if they were driving without any insurance, which is a very expensive proposition both short and long-term.
4. Those GDL laws are not “best practice.” The guidelines are meant to increase the safety of younger drivers, but they are not what research shows might be the safest options. Parents have the power to make their own family’s driving rules even more strict. They even have the power to temporarily un-license their own child.
Getting a driver’s license is a rite-of-passage, and part of the transition to adulthood for our children. As a parent, please educate yourself about the ways you can contribute to the process while your teenager learns to drive.
You CAN make a difference for your kids and that’s in the best interests of everyone, since we all share the roads.