Many studies have shown that teenage drivers are generally more likely to cause accidents than adult drivers. A teenager’s lack of impulse control, combined with a lack of driving experience, may prove to be a dangerous combination. Fortunately, there are a few ways parents can help their children be safer on the road.
Graduated Driver Licensing
Most states have Graduated Driver Licensing programs to allow teen drivers to gain some experience behind the wheel before they obtain full driving privileges.
In California, you must be at least 17 years old to obtain a standard driver’s license with full privileges. Before that, there are two stages: the learner stage and the intermediate stage. In the learner stage, your teen will obtain 50 supervised driving hours, and in the intermediate stage will drive unsupervised with restrictions (e.g., limits on night driving).
Remind your teen to not engage in high-risk driving behaviors
Many motor vehicle accidents are caused by driver negligence and can be avoided. Reminding your teen not to engage in any of the following high-risk driving behaviors can help them drive more safely.
- Driving under the influence: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can impair decision-making and coordination, and slow reaction times in both teens and adults. Under California’s zero-tolerance laws, drivers under the age of 21 with more than a .01 percent blood alcohol concentration will have their license suspended for one year.
- Distracted driving: Driving requires you to always focus on the road. Visual, cognitive, and manual distractions, including texting, eating, adjusting the music, and talking to passengers can all cause teens to lose focus. In California, drivers under the age of 18 cannot use a cell phone at all while driving.
- Drowsy driving: Driving when you are not fully alert due to a lack of sleep can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Falling asleep behind the wheel can result in devastating accidents.
- Reckless driving: All traffic laws must be always followed. However, it can be especially dangerous to engage in certain reckless driving behaviors, such as driving at excessive rates of speed, weaving in and out of traffic, or tailgating. This sort of aggressive driving makes it more likely for a teen driver to lose control of their vehicle and get into an accident.
Many parents make the mistake of relying solely on driver’s education classes to teach their teen good driving techniques. However, it is your job as the parent to model good driving behaviors with your own driving, while also making sure your child learns the rules of the road and gets the practice he or she needs behind the wheel. Every teen is different, so make sure to cater to your child’s specific needs.