So You Have a Teenage Driver–Now What?

Casey is DrivingAs most adult drivers would agree, having a teen driver behind the wheel can be a little scary. You know your child better than anyone. A little part of you is hesitant to confirm that he or she is really ready to take on the roads. Luckily, you know they had to go through quite a bit to get that license.

Laws Concerning Teen Drivers

Before any new driver can hit the road, they must get a learner’s permit. For your 15-year-old, this would mean he or she took a written exam, medical questionnaire, eye exam, and driving skills test. They also had to do a driver education course. Along with the course, the aspiring driver is required to do 40 hours of driving (10 hours after dark) with a licensed driver who is at least 21 years old supervising.

In order to earn their full license, drivers must abide by the Graduated Driver License program. This program was instituted on Utah roads in 1999 and since then, there has been a 62% decrease in teen deaths (ages 15-17). The program states that 15 and 16-year-old drivers cannot drive during nighttime hours 12am-5am. Also, if the 16-year-old driver has a license, they are not allowed to have other passengers in the car for 6 months unless they are immediate family members.

Teen drivers are 50% more likely to be in a crash during the first month of driving. Approximately 90% of teen crashes happen in the first few months. The possibility of a fatal crash increases when the teen driver has another teenager in the car.

These laws have little effect on your teen driver without your enforcement. Police offers cannot watch every teen driver on the road to make sure they are being safe. It is up to you to remind your teen that the laws are in place for their own safety.

Keep Your Teenage Driver Safe

Obviously, you want your child to stay safe. What can you do to ensure this? First, realize that your teenager is probably well-informed about driving rules. They know about merging and using their turn signal. However, knowing the rules is different then actually being able to apply them.

 Experience

  • Nothing can replace actual driving experience. Make sure your child completes the 40-hour driving requirement under your supervision. Put them in different driving locations, at different hours, like in rush hour. Have them practice left hand turns until they don’t cross over the lines. Ease their anxiety about being a new driver by offering your road wisdom. Teens are known for their attitudes, but even if they don’t show it, they look up to you.

Set A Good Example

  • Your child is watching you while you drive. Believe it or not, they are picking up your habits years before they are behind the wheel. Set a good example. Put on your seatbelt. Come to a complete stop at all stop signs. Obey all traffic rules and again, let your teen know that the rules are in place for a reason. Teens are quick to point out hypocrisy. Make sure that you practice what you preach.

Talk to Them About Safe Driving Before They Drive

  • According to SafeCar, there were 4,283 teens drivers involved in deadly crashes in 2012. Over 40% of the drivers died in those accidents. It is important to talk to you child throughout their teenage years about the importance of safe driving.
  • Consider the idea of creating a driving contract with your child. On the contract, remind them that they are not allowed to drive with their friends for the first six months. Also, list down a reminder of basic road safety. Finally, list your personal standards of driving that you expect of them.

Make Sure They Put Away the Cell PhoneCelebrate My Drive: Focus on the Road

  • Utah has strict laws against texting while driving. Texting is defined as “a communication in the form of electronic text or one or more electronic images sent by the actor from a telephone or computer to another person’s telephone or computer by addressing the communication to the person’s telephone number.”
  • The punishment for the violation of the texting law includes a misdemeanor charge with a fine up to $750 and up to three months in jail. If a driver is texting and causes a injury or death, the fine rises up to $10,000 and 15 years in prison—charged as a felony.
  • Texting while driving reduces your reaction time and is similar to driving drunk. According to a Pew survey, 40% of all American teens say they’ve witnessed a driver using a cell phone while they were in the car. Texting and driving is considered distracted driving and in 2012, caused the deaths of 3,328 individuals.
  • Remind your teen that while they are driving, their only concern should be the road. If a text message is important to answer, remind them that they should pull over to a safe location and park the car, then they respond.

Distracted Driving Is More Than a Cell Phone

  • According to distraction.gov, distracted driving is defined as any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.”
  • Texting is the most common among teens. It distracts your eyes, your hands, and your focus. However, other form of distracted driving include: eating, grooming, watching a video, playing with the radio, using a cell phone, using a navigation system, and talking to others in the vehicle. All of these behaviors take away your concentration. When both hands are not on the wheel but instead focused on some third activity, such as texting, the likelihood of an accident increases by three times.

Remind Them of the Dangers of Drinking and Driving

  • As a teenager, your child is not legally old enough to consume any alcohol. Alcohol impairs motor abilities and judgment. It is dangerous for anyone, especially new drivers, to drink and drive. According to the CDC Injury Center, “In 2012, 23% of drivers aged 15 to 20 involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes were drinking.”

Remind Your Teen They Are NOT Invincible

  • Teens often underestimate dangerous driving situations and do not recognize driving hazards as quickly as more experienced drivers do.
  • Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed.
  • Teens are less likely than other age groups to use their seat belt.
  • Have a serious discussion with your teen about vulnerability. They are young, and often more careless than they should be. They see their life spanning before them, but they don’t necessarily realize how their behaviors put them at a greater risk.
  • Safety is first and foremost. Make sure they know and respect the law. Remind them of consequences—both with the law and within your home—if they decide to go rogue.
  • Ultimately, let them know that you love them. You want them to have their driving independence while being safe.

Sources: NSC, Don’t Drive Stupid, Goji, Driving Laws, Distraction, CDC, SafeCar

Photo Credit: State Farm via Creative Commons and Kathleen Tyler Conklin via Creative Commons

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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