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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
for New Drivers
Rules for parents to consider when teens begin driving independently
should not allow young drivers unrestricted driving privileges
until they have gained sufficient experience.
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.
under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal and dangerous
and should be strictly prohibited.
should work out when and where the teen is allowed to drive
the car (e.g. to and from part-time job, etc.).
in the car must wear seat belts at all times.
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
should determine what behavior or circumstances will result
in loss of the teen's driving privileges.
should not drive when fatigued or tired.
should never be worn while driving.
must be worn when riding a motorcycle.
should be encouraged to take an annual defensive driving
course after obtaining their license.
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
Facts for Families: #3 Teens: Alcohol and Other Drugs, #66
Helping Teenagers with Stress, #58 Normal Adolescent Development
# 76 Updated 07/00