HELPING YOUR TEEN BECOME A SAFE DRIVER
Articles for Parents
All Family Resources
Alphabetical List
  1. Children and Divorce
  2. Teenagers with Eating Disorders
  3. Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs
  4. The Depressed Child
  5. Child Abuse - The Hidden Bruises
  6. Children Who Can't Pay Attention
  7. Children Who Won't Go to School
  8. Children and Grief
  9. Child Sexual Abuse
  10. Teen Suicide
  11. The Child with Autism
  12. Children Who Steal
  13. Children and TV Violence
  14. Children and Family Moves
  15. The Adopted Child
  16. Children with Learning Disabilities
  17. Children of Alcoholics
  18. Bedwetting
  19. The Child with a Long-Term Illness
  20. Making Day Care a Good Experience
  21. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part I: How Medications Are Used
  22. Normality
  23. Mental Retardation
  24. Know When to Seek Help for Your Child
  25. Who can be contacted to seek Help for Your Child
  26. Know Your Health Insurance Benefits
  27. Stepfamily Problems
  28. Responding to Child Sexual Abuse
  29. Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents Part II: Types of Medications
  30. Children and AIDS
  31. When Children Have Children
  32. 11 Questions to Ask Before Psychiatric Hospital Treatment of Children and Adolescents
  33. Conduct Disorders
  34. Children's Sleep Problems
  35. Tic Disorders
  36. Helping Children After a Disaster
  37. Children and Firearms
  38. Bipolar Disorder (Manic-Depressive Illness) in Teens
  39. Children of Parents with Mental Illness
  40. The Influence of Music and Music Videos
  41. Substance Abuse Treatment for Children and Adolescents: Questions to Ask
  42. The Continuum of Care
  43. Discipline
  44. Children and Lying
  45. Lead Exposure
  46. Home Alone Children
  47. The Anxious Child
  48. Problems with Soiling and Bowel Control
  49. Schizophrenia in Children
  50. Panic Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  51. Psychiatric Medications for Children and Adolescents Part III: Questions to Ask
  52. Comprehensive Psychiatric Evaluation
  53. What is Psychotherapy For Children and Adolescents?
  54. Children and Watching TV
  55. Understanding Violent Behavior in Children & Adolescents
  56. Parenting: Preparing for Adolescence
  57. Normal Adolescent Development - Middle School and Early High School Years
  58. Normal Adolescent Development - Late High School Years and Beyond
  59. Children Online
  60. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents
  61. Children and Sports
  62. Talking to Your Kids About Sex
  63. Gay And Lesbian Adolescents
  64. Foster Care
  65. Children's Threats: When are they serious? 
  66. Helping Teenagers with Stress
  67. Children and The News
  68. Tobacco and Kids
  69. Asperger's Disorder
  70. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  71. Multiracial Children
  72. Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder
  73. Self-Injury in Adolescents
  74. Advocating for Your Child
  75. Pets and Children
  76. Helping Your Teen Become a Safe Driver
  77. Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
  78. When a Pet Dies
  79. Obesity in Children and Teens
  80. Bullying #80
HELPING YOUR TEEN BECOME A SAFE DRIVER

A driver's license is one of the biggest status symbols among high school students. Getting a driver's license is not only a social asset but it makes the adolescent feel more independent than ever before. Parents no longer have to do the driving - the teen can get places on his or her own. Most teens count the hours and days until they can get their learners permit (usually age 16) and take their driving test to demonstrate driving competence. Some teens however, may be pushed to drive by peer or parental pressures before they feel ready. Parents often have many concerns and fear for their teen's safety on the road.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), teenage drivers account for only 7% of the driving population but are involved in 14% of fatal crashes. Traffic crashes are the #1 cause of death and injury for people ages 15-19. In 1998, more than 6,300 teens died in motor vehicle collisions. Problems which contribute to the high crash rate of young drivers include: driving inexperience, lack of adequate driving skills, risk taking, poor driving judgement and decision making, alcohol consumption and excessive driving during high risk hours (11PM-5AM).

Learning to Drive (Learner's Permit)
When a teenager obtains a learner's permit they can start learning to drive with an adult present in the car to supervise and teach. In most cases the best way for teens to learn to drive is through a driver's education class. These classes are often sponsored by schools. In many states, completing a driver's education course results in reduction of the teen's automobile insurance costs. Private driving instruction is another alternative. AAA offers a training program (available on video or CD-ROM) "Teaching Your Teens to Drive: A Partnership for Survival". One teenager has even developed a website specifically for teens learning to drive ("Teen New Driver Homepage" - www.teendriving.com). Parents are in a unique position to show their children proper driving skills and to teach proper driving choices. Teen drivers need to get as much driving experience as possible after they obtain their learner's permit. Lots of driving experience generally makes the teen a safer driver and eases the transition to driving independently. However, not all parents have the temperament to teach driving. Parents who find themselves yelling, making sarcastic remarks or being upsetting to the teen should ask their spouse, another relative or friend to help out.

The Driver' License (Driving Independently)
When teens pass the official driving test they receive their driver' license and can legally drive independently (some states have restrictions on 17 year old drivers). Parents, however, should not allow their teen to drive independently until the teen has sufficient experience and the parents are comfortable with the teen's level of driving skill. Parents should talk candidly with their teen about the dangers and risks of distractions such as music from radio/tape/CD player, passengers, eating food and using cell phones. Parents should also discuss and demonstrate the importance of controlling emotions while driving (e.g. "road rage", drag racing, etc.). Teens should also be taught about the importance of defensive driving. Inexperienced drivers often concentrate on driving correctly and fail to anticipate the actions and mistakes or errors of other drivers. If the teen is taking medications (prescription or over-the-counter) or has any medical illnesses, parents should check with their family physician about possible effects on the teen's driving ability.

Additionally, parents should make sure that the vehicle their teen drives is in safe condition (brakes, tires, etc.) and working properly. The vehicle should have essential emergency equipment (flares, flashlight, jumper cables, etc.) and the teen should know how to use it. A cell phone is helpful for emergencies but parents must stress that it can be a dangerous distraction if it is used while driving.

Concern about the number of young people killed or injured in traffic crashes has prompted state legislation to reform the way teenagers are licensed to drive. A majority of states have adopted the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system with varying state requirements. Recommended by the AAA, the GDL has teens earn driving privileges in a three-stage process: learner's permit at age 16, a probationary license after 6 months and an unrestricted driver's license at age 18.

Even though the driver's license allows the teen to drive independently, it is important that parents establish clear rules for safe and responsible driving and rules for the use of the car.

Rules for New Drivers
Rules for parents to consider when teens begin driving independently include:

  • Parents should not allow young drivers unrestricted driving privileges until they have gained sufficient experience.
  • Parents should limit their teen's driving alone in adverse weather conditions (rain, snow, ice, fog. etc.) and at night until the teen has sufficient skills and experience.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal and dangerous and should be strictly prohibited.
  • Parents should work out when and where the teen is allowed to drive the car (e.g. to and from part-time job, etc.).
  • Everyone in the car must wear seat belts at all times.
  • Parents should determine whether and when their teen can drive passengers. Some states have established a law that no passengers are allowed in the car until the teen has logged a defined period of safe independent driving
  • Parents should determine what behavior or circumstances will result in loss of the teen's driving privileges.
  • Teens should not drive when fatigued or tired.
  • Headphones should never be worn while driving.
  • Helmets must be worn when riding a motorcycle.
  • Teens should be encouraged to take an annual defensive driving course after obtaining their license.

Supervised behind-the-wheel driving experience is the key to developing necessary habits and skills for safe driving. Parents need to work with their teens to help them gain the needed experience and judgement.

Additional/related Facts for Families: #3 Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs, #66 Helping Teenagers with Stress, #58 Normal Adolescent Development

Article # 76 Updated 07/00

All Family Resources wishes to thank the (AACAP) for giving us permission to use this article.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) represents over 6,900 child and adolescent psychiatrists who are physicians with at least five years of additional training beyond medical school in general (adult) and child and adolescent psychiatry.

Facts for Families is developed and distributed by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). Facts sheets may be reproduced for personal or educational use without written permission, but cannot be included in material presented for sale. To order full sets of FFF, contact Public Information, 1.800.333.7636.  Free distribution of individual Facts sheets is a public service of the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund. Please make a tax deductible contribution to the AACAP Special Friends of Children Fund and support this important public outreach. (AACAP, Special Friends of Children Fund, P.O. Box 96106, Washington, D.C. 20090).
   
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