You’ve got a new 16 year old who just past the drivers test, has a brand new license, and is ready to roll in their new (or slightly used) car. Your teen is excited, but you are a nervous wreck. How can you let your baby go out there with all those bad drivers? How do you trust your teen will be a good driver? Especially when you know that most teens who have a car crash do so within the first year of learning to drive. We’ve put some of the biggest questions parents have about teen driving and give some solid advice to calm those parenting nerves.
Is driver’s education enough?
The most important mistake is underestimating the time and effort it takes to help make a teen a safer, smarter driver. Many parents assume that drivers ed alone is adequate. Keep in mind this is a great start to ensuring safety but parents need to do their part, too. Parents should plan to spend a minimum of 50 to 100 hours behind the wheel with their teen over a 6 to 12 month period before and after they receive their license.
Some parents are not clear in what skills and principles are the most important to teach. Parents need to ensure that their teen has experience in a variety of different driving situations. The most important are emergency braking and proper following distance, reducing distractions, and improving visual scanning skills.
Teens also need experience in residential, rural, freeway, and city driving. They need experience in snow, rain, fog, and night-time conditions whenever possible. Some other skills should be:
- Decision making. Teen drivers’ lack of experience means they are the least equipped to make quick decisions in a vehicle.
- Driving while sleepy or intoxicated. Teens have heard the message about drinking and driving but don’t see drowsy driving — which is almost as dangerous at this age — as risky behavior.
- Emergency braking. Brake hard and fast when you need to.
- Look three times further down the road than you normally would to increase the time you have to react to an upcoming driving decision or situation.
- Expect the unexpected, and for other driver to put you in danger. Always have an escape route mentally accounted for.
- Drive as if your life depends on the decisions you make. Because it does.
What are your top picks for accessories and technology to help crash proof the car and teen driver?
- Safety Belts. This seems like a no-brainer, but teens have the lowest seatbelt usage of any driving group. Combine that with a penchant for speeding and distractions and you’ve got a deadly combination
- Make sure your car has electronic stability control. These systems are marketed under a variety of names, but they are probably the single most effective safety devices ever invented for cars. These systems automatically correct the mistakes people make that lead to skids and roll-overs.
- Anti-lock brakes. Most all cars have them now, but they’re a major improvement, even though they are often used improperly. Do not pump, maintain firm, steady pressure.
- Air bags–as many as you can get, the more the better.
- Structural improvements—reinforced doors and crumple zones.
- Tires. The single most underestimated element of auto safety. Check tire pressures monthly. Buy the best you can afford. Snow tires are far better than all-weather radials, especially if you live in areas with inclement weather.
- Speed control. Speed control will limit the car’s top speed so your teen can only go so fast on roads such as freeways and interstates.
Top devices and accessories which add risk to a driver are virtually anything electronic and distracting, including GPS systems, TV/DVD systems, cell phones, Ipods, etc.
Shouldn’t I let my teen drive as much as possible?
Resist the temptation to let your teen drive freely without taking the time to drive with them for the sake of making them better drivers just because it’s convenient. We’re all chauffeurs to our kids these days, and it’s an attractive proposition to let them loose with the car too soon, ferrying themselves and their friends everywhere and freeing up our own time. That time passes very quickly, and the first 6 to 12 months while they are learning to drive is the most dangerous and risky.
Is 16 Too Young for a Drivers License?
Raising the driving age for a year or more is a proven way to save lives, because the crash rate per mile driven is twice as high for 16-year-olds as it is for 18- and 19-year-olds. Research shows that most of these slightly older drivers are better, more mature, and simply safer on the road. This should not be a surprise given that humans’ brains aren’t fully developed and capable of making informed decisions about risk until they are 25. However, it does little to satisfy your teen’s’ yearnings for a car or their lack of perspective on their own abilities which is why you want them to be as informed as possible if they are driving younger.
Getting a driver license is the most eagerly awaited event in most teenagers’ lives — and the most dreaded for their parents. After all, while a driver license is a badge of freedom, it brings with it tremendous risk: Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. However, if you take time to implement these driving tips with your teen now, you will have a better teen driver and less nervous parent!