By Julie Turner
I will never forget the feeling of watching my oldest child drive away for the first time. It was the spring of 2010, and Ross and I were working at a J.L. Mann Booster Club Golf Tournament. Our son rode to the golf course with me to help unpack the refreshments and promotional items. After we were done, he grabbed the keys, hopped into the driver’s seat of my van, and drove off. I stood in the parking lot watching him pull away…and prayed for safety!
When your child reaches driving age, you experience many emotions. At first, you are excited you won’t have to drive his or her carpool anymore. As an added benefit, now you have someone to help with errands or run to the grocery store for you! But once you turn over the keys, the euphoria you were feeling turns into worry, fear, and anxiety.
The fact is, teen drivers are four times more likely to be involved in an automobile crash than experienced drivers. This is primarily due to inexperience and immaturity. In addition, car accidents are the leading cause of death among our teens.
So how can we help these odds?
Hands down, the best way to increase the safety of our driving teens is parental involvement, beginning well before it’s time for your teen to get behind the wheel. After years of working with clients who have teen drivers, here are a few of our recommendations:
Be a good role model. Start now by demonstrating the kind of safe driving behavior you will expect from your child. Wear your seat belt, follow the rules of the road, and refrain from texting or other activities that can cause distracted driving. Your kids are watching your actions and will take their cues from you.
Be an active part of your child’s driving education. Talk to your teen when you are in the car about the driving decisions you are making. What can go wrong if you are following too closely to another car? What steps do you take to make sure you change lanes safely? Why are your turn signals important? Point out potentially dangerous situations and talk about ways to handle them as you are driving. Ask them what they would do in these situations and talk through the scenarios they may face behind the wheel. You may get a few eye rolls, but they are listening whether they want you to know that or not.
Be sure your child knows your expectations. Don’t wait until something goes wrong to discuss the rules and consequences. We highly recommend that you be proactive and complete a Parent/Teen Driver contract. When and where will your teen be allowed to drive? How many passengers are allowed in the car? Who will pay for the fuel, maintenance, and insurance of the vehicle they drive? What happens if they get a ticket? Proactively set the ground rules so that both parties know the expectations. You may get some pushback, but the benefit of discussing these issues before something happens is immeasurable. (We offer a Parent/Teen Driver contract. If you would like a copy, contact us at 288-9513 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Be informed and know the rules of the road: The process has changed since most of us took the test for our driver’s permit. In South Carolina, the graduated driver’s license program is designed for people aged 15 to 17. The stages begin with a learner’s permit, move to a conditional or special restricted license, and end with an unrestricted driver’s license. Visit scdmvonline.com to familiarize yourself with the rules of each stage, including the specific hours your teen can drive during the day and how many passengers are allowed in the vehicle.
Statistics say that one in six newly licensed teens will be involved in an automobile crash within the first six months. Even after your teen has passed the driving test, he or she will still need your supervision, guidance, and support. Yes, they may sigh and roll their eyes, but they hear you! We strongly believe that the more time you invest upfront with your kids to teach them about safe driving, the safer and more responsible they’ll be behind the wheel. Wishing you all safe driving and a safe summer!