So your teenager has their driver’s license? You thought it would be a blessing right?
“He can drive himself to hockey practice at 5:00 a.m.!”
And baseball, and the mall, and the movies, and so on and so on and so on.
But it isn’t that easy.
As parents, we worried from the minute we found out we were expecting. We read the “What To Expect” books. We checked to make sure they were safe in their crib. Made sure the playground was safe. Taught them stranger danger.
Then we put them on a school bus (with no seatbelts) and sent them to off school (with strangers) and worried about school shootings and bullies and being left out. “What if they needed me during the day?”
During summertime they went off to camp (again, on the bus with no seatbelts), with a bunch of unknown teenage counselors who were probably not watching them nearly close enough. There are boats and lakes and arrows and fire! “What if they wander off into the woods?” Must I sing “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” to you? Must I?
Oh, dear God, the constant worry of being a parent is exhausting!
But that is NOTHING compared to the worry you feel the first time your child drives away in a car, unsupervised. This is time for self-medicating. I am not kidding!
Car crashes are the number one killer of teens!
Driver error accounts for 70% of all crashes simply because of inexperience. Of course risky behavior also plays a role as nearly one-fifth of sixteen and seventeen year olds killed in crashes had been drinking and half of those killed were not wearing seatbelts.
Driver Distraction is the newest risk
Talking on a cell phone makes it four times more likely to be in a crash. Guess what, research shows it doesn’t matter if it is a handheld OR a hands-free device. They are equally dangerous.
Texting and Driving is a deadly combination
I’m not telling you anything you didn’t already know. Texting while driving increases the risk of a crash more than eight times!
Take a moment to watch this video. It shows how quickly an accident can occur when you take your eyes off the road. And I promise you, it is well worth the minute and a half! Then make your teen watch it. Then make them watch it again. And again.
What Can You Do?
- Stay Involved! Continue to drive with them after they have their license. Take them to new places so they can learn how to react to unfamiliar situations
- Be a good example! Obey the rules of the road. Don’t talk on your cell or text and drive
- Make and enforce rules. Know where they are and who is in the car with them. Establish a reasonable curfew.
- Don’t let them wait until the last minute. Allow enough time, so there is no need to speed or take unnecessary risks
- PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!
Now buckle up, because you’re in for a ride!
On the brighter side
- Spending all that time in the car with your teen and their undivided attention can really spark some great conversations.
- Cars are so much safer than back in the olden days, you know, the 80’s?
- There are stricter rules for new drivers, such as limits on how many passengers can be in the car. Once again, not like the 80’s when we used to pile all our friends in like a circus clown car and cruise the strip.
- Congratulations! You now have your own Designated Driver! See? It ain’t all bad!