How to Cope When Your Teen Starts Driving

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It’s the day your teen’s always dreamed about and the day you never thought would come. Having a new driver in the family is unbelievably exciting, yet unbelievably scary. The following tips will help you conquer the inevitable with the utmost assurance.

When your teen first gets her license, she’ll probably want nothing more than to pick up her friends and go on an adventure. However, if this isn’t something you’re comfortable with yet, it’s okay to tell your teen “no.” She’ll get their adventure soon enough, and the risk involved outweighs your teen’s hurt feelings. Friends not only may distract your teen with their chatter, but they also may turn up the music and create other diversions.

Some states even forbid teen drivers from having other teens in the car until they’ve had their license for a designated period of time. Try starting off with solo “mini-trips,” sending your teen to nearby locations, such as the grocery store or gas station. These perfectly safe trips will help build up both your child’s confidence and your own. Before she knows it, she’ll be jammin’ out (safely) with her friends, just help her fortify her skillset, first!

Stress the importance of always knowing where you are going to your teen, meaning she should review the directions and parking information beforehand. When going to an unfamiliar place, leave a cushion of time just in case a U-turn is necessary. Driving is an experience that requires adaptability and patience from teens, traits that may not be fully-developed at ages 15-18.

During the learning process, discourage frustration and road rage. A good piece of advice to give your child is “if you think you can, don’t”—only make driving maneuvers you know are 100% safe. There’s never any harm until waiting until the next green arrow or waiting in the median for another 30 seconds.

Also, remember to remind your teen just how dangerous it is to pull out her phone while driving. Encourage her to store it in a place where she will not be tempted to use it, such as the center console. If she needs their phone for navigation purposes, consider getting her a hands-free holder for her dashboard.  As teens become more and more comfortable behind the wheel, they become increasingly likely to attempt to use their mobile devices. Because of this tendency, it is important to stress the danger in distracted driving from the onset. Furthermore, according to a study by Aceable Driving and Texas A&M Transportation Institute, teens learn distracted driving habits from their parents. Accordingly, make sure that you’re following the rules of the road and setting a good example for your teen!

To make sure your teen safely gets from point A to point B without calling or texting her (to avoid an unnecessary distraction), ask your teen to share her location with you. If you prefer to give your teen more autonomy, perhaps request that she texts you when she arrives and leaves a certain location. It’s also a good idea to set a curfew for your teen. The most accidents happen from 10pm-2am.

People’s cognitive abilities generally decrease during the nighttime, placing a greater liability on your teen. If out too late, your teen faces an increased risk of coming into contact with a drunk driver.

Even though it should be a given by your child’s age, don’t hesitate to stress the basics of driving. According to research conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 16- to 17-year old drivers are nine times more likely to be involved in a crash than adults and six times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than adults. The most obvious way to prevent life-altering car crashes is wearing a seatbelt.

Let your teen know you expect not only her to wear a seatbelt every time she gets in the car, but that she should also hold her passengers to the same expectations. While sharing statistics like this may worry your teen, these facts ultimately stress the responsibility that comes with driving to help your child continuously make the right decisions along the way.

To foster a sense of ownership, some parents recommend making your child fiscally responsible for a certain aspect of the car. For example, having your teen pay for their own insurance may make them more inclined to take precaution when backing out in a crowded parking lot. Another idea includes having your child pay for their own gas. This method engenders a sense of awareness about the money involved in owning and maintaining a car, helping to ensure your teen understands driving as a responsibility rather than a right. Ultimately, driving is your teen’s privilege, and she must follow your rules in order to keep this privilege.

Lastly, teach your teen how to expect the unexpected. Although, naturally, you hope your child isn’t going to be pulled over by a police officer any time soon, let her know how to pull over and stop in a safe location. Also remind her that if she ever feels as if she’s being followed, or notices any other suspicious behavior on the roads, to call 911 immediately.

In the case of hail, thunderstorms, or heavy rain, encourage your teen to never drive through bad weather, and to instead pull over into a safe location until the weather passes whenever possible. Be sure she also knows what to do if she is suddenly faced with a flat tire or what to do if the car randomly starts stalling. Knowing where to locate the insurance card and the number for roadside assistance is essential in case of emergency.

As a driver, you know that thousands of scenarios are possible. While you hope your child never faces the worst of them, make sure he or she is equipped just in case. Your teen lacks the same experience and intuition as you and other drivers on the road, so your advice during this formative time is especially important. Above all else, remember to take a deep breath. You, too, were once a teen driver. Let your child enjoy his or her newfound freedom, while following the above tips for an improved peace of mind.

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