Teen Driving: A Survival Guide for Parents

Your kid just got his or her permit or driver’s license and you know they’re going to ask for the car keys in 3…2…1. A teen sees this as a rite of passage into adulthood, a stage that offers freedom, decision-making, and mobility like never before. Do you remember the first time you held those car keys in your hand? Now it’s your turn to grant that permission. But before you take the dreaded step, we suggest establishing some rules.

Are they ready?

The first 12 months behind the wheel can be as evolving as the first 12 months of life. In that period, the teenager should get to know the vehicle, learn to correct mistakes, get used to making signals, wear the seatbelt at all times, and make sure all the passengers wear them as well. They learn the ins and outs of how their mirrors work, how to be mindful of speed limits, how to avoid distractions, what “blind spots” are, and so much more.

The more hours they practice, the better. As a parent, it is your duty to make sure they have practiced in every condition possible before letting them drive on their own with traffic, on the highway, at night, while it’s raining, etc. Keep in mind that inexperience is the main cause of accidents among teen drivers.

Tip: If you have a teenager at home, establish a specific driving goal. For example, the day they can take the car on their own. But in order to enjoy the privilege, they need to keep a log of their driving hours until they reach a specific number. This way they can work towards a given goal.

Zero tolerance

Talk to your teenager about certain unbreakable rules. Breaking these can cause serious consequences, from their parents and the law.

Zero distractions: from phone calls, text messages, Facebook and Twitter, to other teens distracting the driver, wearing an iPod, etc. These should be avoided at all times.

Zero alcohol and/or drugs: Drinking before the age of 21 and using drugs is illegal. Put a teen under the influence behind the wheel and the consequences can be fatal. They could lose their license, go to jail, and risk their lives and the lives of others.

Other rules

At first, we recommend setting rigid rules that you could “loosen” over time. For example, during the first months you could restrict the number of passengers traveling in the car, not allowing them to drive at night, etc. It would also be helpful to establish an IN CASE OF strategy. In case you damage the car, you have to pay it out of your allowance. In case you get a fine, you have to pay half, etc.

Reward good behaviors

Reward the teenager if they’ve been responsible drivers. Talk about how to reward a period without incidents. You could let them know in advance they can get free gas for a month, a gift card, or driving privileges like driving at night.

Driving a car involves a great deal of responsibility for both teens and parents. Keep the lines of communication open and don’t be afraid to establish boundaries. These could save lives.

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