As a parent, I entered the summer with a mixture of apprehension and excitement. It’s the time of year when teen drivers take over the roads and embrace their freedom. While it can be an exciting time for them, it is also a dangerous time as they are inexperienced and lack maturity. Obtaining a driver’s license for adolescents is a rite of passage and the first step into adulthood. Now they’re independent people who no longer have to rely on an adult to drive them around.
After a year of having his learners permits, my 17 son finally got his driver’s license. Undoubtedly, I was excited for him (I literally cried); but that happiness soon transformed into anxiety and fear as reality set in. My thoughts were quickly overwhelmed by the “what ifs” and several different scenarios played in my mind. Automotive crashes are the #1 killer of teens. Knowing that my son is behind the wheel of a car is downright scary!
Here are some tips that will help guide your teen as they become independent drivers.
- Develop house rules: We sat our son down and established rules for driving, including no drinking, texting, or speeding. We discussed curfews, expectations, responsibilities, and consequences. For example, he is not permitted to have more than 2 friends in the car with him at once.
- Set a good example: Parents have the biggest influence on teens. Leading by example is the best way to help them be safe and responsible drivers. Follow good driving practices with your teen.
- Practice, Practice, Practice : Practice with your teen at every opportunity. Take time to map out a route and practice making turns, driving on a busy intersection, and parking. During each lesson, its important to teach your teen about safe driving habits. Not only will this help improve strong driving skills but will also allow them to be continuously conscious of their surroundings and how to respond to various circumstances.
- Have the car serviced: Schedule necessary car maintenance and/or fix anything that needs it. In order to be legally driven on state roadways, Massachusetts requires each vehicle to undergo an annual safety inspection including smog and emission tests. It is equally important to teach your teens about the fundamentals of car maintenance. My husband taught our son how to change a tire, check the oil level and leaks, and check the brakes.
- Financial responsibility: Have your teen take on some of the financial cost of driving, such as filing the tank and paying their share of the auto insurance. When we added our son to our insurance policy, the premium increased by a whooping $3400 per year. We decided that his earnings from work would help cover the rise.
- Roadside Assistance: You won’t always be there to rescue your teen if the vehicle breaks down, so it’s a smart idea to invest in roadside assistance. We added our son to our AAA membership to protect him when we are not around to help. He has access to the same benefits as us and if he is with his friends, they’ll get the same protection.
The of thought of handing over the keys to your teen may fill you with dread, but remember that our aim as parents is to raise independent, responsible individuals that can thrive on their own. There will be challenges along the way but try to make this a positive experience for you both!