First-time teen drivers are about to hit the road for summer fun. Let's take a few minutes to advise them of the rules of the road.
School is out, the sky is blue, and teen-aged students are trying to find ways to spend their last few summers of total freedom. Trips to the lake, the beach, or just to pool with their friends, followed by fast-food dinners and possibly a movie at the mall cine-plex fill their dreams and desires.
And their parents, as did their parents before them, are trying to figure out how to keep their children safe from harm, while simultaneously letting them test their wings. Not totally leaving the nest, so to speak, but taking short solo flights. This is one of the most difficult times in the lives of parents, as they want to encourage their offspring to be mature and independent, but still wanting to cling to the babes they remember holding in their arms.
For many teens, this is the first summer when they don’t have to depend on having Mom or Dad to drop them off and pick them up at their summer outings. They have achieved that long-awaited goal of having a driver’s license, and they are anxious and willing to use it.
Admittedly, having a teen with the ability to drive themselves to their various functions does take a load off the already busy schedule most parents have today, but it also brings along an entire new set of worries.
Studies have shown that most teenage drivers will be involved in some sort of vehicular accident before reaching the age of 20, from minor fender-benders to tragic fatalities. Many factors can be attributed to this; reckless driving, unfamiliar road conditions, and distracted driving, just to name a few.
But many experts say the major contributor is just plain inexperience behind the wheel. As is always the case, there is only one way to gain that experience, and that is actually doing the driving. To complicate matters, most teens, especially males, believe they are immortal.
That is exactly why parents of new drivers should take a little time out of their busy schedules and review the responsibilities and consequences of driving alone, and also with their friends. Some go as far as to say a contract with the new driver should be written that spells out exactly what happens should they become involved in an accident, including such things as who is responsible for repairs, and what penalties they will face should they be cited for a traffic violation.
Rules such as a limit on driving hours, the number of passengers they are allowed to carry, and distractions such as phones and music playing should be set. And a list of consequences that will be enforced if those rules are violated. Safe driving habits are easier to adhere to if developed at an early age.
Studies have shown that the more younger drivers have invested in the driving experience, the more careful they are with the vehicle. More skin in the game, as it were.
Today’s vehicles have a myriad of distractions built into them, and additional passengers, phone calls and texts, as well as hearing your favorite song at an ear-piercing volume level only increase the chance of not seeing that stop sign when traveling down an unfamiliar street, or noticing the car in front of is stopped to turn, without using their turn signal.
The list goes on and on, but you get the general idea. Driving is difficult for even adults and most of us fail to give the task the attention it deserves. Review your own habits as well. Your kids learn most of theirs from watching you.
Accidents will happen. But possibly a few well-chosen words to your young inexperienced driver could prevent some of them. Wouldn’t that be a worthy investment of your time?