There is nothing more frightening than the thought of putting your teenager behind the wheel, except perhaps the thought of putting your teenager behind the wheel of the family car. Thinking of what could go wrong is enough to drive parents crazy! It certainly drove me up the wall.
When my sons passed the test for their driver’s permit, I plastered on a big, fake smile and pretended to be happy. Their driving skills were okay for cruising through our large subdivision, but the last thing I wanted to do was turn them loose on the highway with all those other crazy drivers.
Although my sons felt that passing the test was a sure sign of being ready to hit the road, I knew what they were facing by sharing the road with other drivers. After all, a driver’s license was no guarantee that everyone else would drive defensively or respect sharing the road.
Taking Advice from a Pro
Fortunately our insurance agent had a lot of advice for helping to keep our teens safe and our rates low. His tips not only helped my sons transition from the quiet streets of our subdivision to the busy highway just a few miles away, but the tips also helped put my mind at ease. Here is what he had to say.
- Attend Driving School – Some sort of driver’s education course can teach teen drivers things they cannot learn from their parents. This is primarily due to the fact that teenagers are willing to listen to and take advice from anyone who is not a parental figure in their life.
- Practice, Practice, and More Practice – There is no such thing as a perfect driver, but with enough practice your teen can eventually put your mind at ease with the good driving skills they develop. Practicing driving with adult supervision allows teens to face their biggest driving fears with someone there to support and guide them.
- Set a Curfew – American television journalist Bob Phillips once quipped, “Teenagers complain there’s nothing to do, then stay out all night doing it.” However accidents are more likely to happen after midnight. Teens might not like it now, but they will thank you later.
- Sign a Driving Agreement – Although a variety of parent-teen driving agreements exist, its basic function is to set up rules that everyone in the family can live with – even if they have to be enforced. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a basic copy in both English and Spanish. (http://www.cdc.gov/ParentsAreTheKey/agreement/)
There’s no substitute for the wisdom that comes with years of driving. Once I started letting my sons drive more often, I noticed that the hands-on learning experiences were giving them little bits of wisdom that they could use out on the road — even without my sitting in the passenger’s seat to remind them.
When the Unthinkable Becomes Reality
Like most people their age, my sons are connected to every trendy social network known to teenagers. Too often social networks are our primary source of local news, and I’ll never forget the first time we received information about a teenager involved in an accident with another vehicle.
After explaining to them why their parents preferred them to be safe rather than a statistics, we discussed things that all drivers do to compromise their safety. Some of their suggestions were things that had not even occurred to me! The top three things we discussed that evening were:
- Distracted Driving – Our primary rule is no texting, phone calls, et cetera while behind the wheel, whether it is a teenager or an adult.
- Teenage Drinking – Part of our agreement (mentioned above) is that if they ever drink, they agree not to get behind the wheel and try to drive.
- Speeding – Driving too fast is my biggest flaw, and it stung to hear my teenage sons add this to our list. However they were right, even 5 miles over the speed limit is speeding.
When my sons were little I could barely leave the room without the pitter-patter of little feet at my heels. But now that they tower heads and shoulders above me it is the other way around. I always want to know where they are and what they are doing, especially now that they have wheels!
While we can’t stay with our teenagers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we can talk to them. When getting your teenager ready to hit the highway, communication is the key, and it could mean the difference between getting home safely or getting into a car accident along the way.
As freelance writer Becky Muth writes articles for her clients, she always keeps an eye out for ways to keep her family healthy and safe, whether it is reading the legal blog at www.travisblacklaw.com or researching smoothie recipes that use organic ingredients. In her free time Becky enjoys watching chick flicks with “Amazing Gracie”, the puppy her family helped rescue in the summer of 2013.
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