Your teen enrolled in a driver education program when she was 15 and got her learner’s permit. She completed 30 hours of classroom instruction and six hours behind the wheel with an instructor. She passed a knowledge test and a driving skills test once she was 16 years and three months old and was granted a state of Indiana probationary driver’s license. You may feel confident that she is ready to hit the roads alone, but learning safe driving habits doesn’t end with getting a license. Now it is up to you as the parent to help her make good decisions as she further improves her driving skills.
The Risk for Teens Drivers
Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in the U.S., causing more fatalities than illness, drugs, violence, or suicide. Despite limitations imposed on teen drivers by restricted licenses, teens are still taking risks and making deadly mistakes when they drive. In fact, teens 16 to 19 years old are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than drivers over the age of 20. According to a study conducted by The Allstate Foundation, parents have the greatest influence over how teens drive, even after getting their licenses. It is important that parents know how to continue to teach their independent drivers.
Tips for Coaching a Licensed Teen Driver
Your teen has been itching to head out in the family car alone, and now that it’s perfectly legal to do so, it’s hard for you to stop her. However, it is important for her safety and that of others on the road that you continue to observe and monitor her driving and put restrictions in place when necessary. The Allstate Foundation recommends the following guidelines for parents of teen drivers:
- Continue to ride with your teen. While it is legal for your teen to drive without you now, make it a rule that you ride with her for 30 minutes a week. This way, you can catch bad habits before they become ingrained and make sure she is remembering everything she learned in driver’s ed.
- Lead by example. Teens can spot hypocrisy better than anyone. You cannot demand that your teen use a seat belt, drive the speed limit, and put away her cell phone behind the wheel if you are not doing those things yourself. Be a smart and safe driver and your teen will notice.
- Set your own restrictions. Indiana has some restriction on teen licenses for the first 180 days, including no driving after 10 pm and no passengers. However, you are the parent and you set the rules. Limiting your teen’s driving hours and number of passengers beyond the first six months may do more to save a life than anything else.
- Sign a teen driving contract. It’s all too easy to be permissive with the car keys when it saves you the time and effort of driving your high schooler around, but when you create an agreement with your teen that spells out when, where, and what they can drive, it’s easier to stick to your guns. Write a contract that makes sense for you and your teen, sign in, and pull it out when your teen asks for more privileges.
- Practice night and winter driving. The state may place restrictions on solo driving at night, but if they don’t practice, teens will never learn the hazards and get better at it. Take your teen out at night to practice every week. And, once the snow and ice hit, take your teen—with a license or learner’s permit—to a parking lot to learn to handle the car in the snow.
- Assess your teen’s skill. When you make a point of riding with your teen driver regularly, you can identify their weaknesses and help them improve. If you find that despite already having a license, your teen is just not a safe driver, take away the keys until he gets more practice with you or consider enrolling him in an advanced skills class.
Your Teen’s Mistake Could Cost You a Bundle
If your teen makes a mistake that ends up injuring another driver or one of his own passengers, you could be hit with a lawsuit that will be hard to defend against. It may take all the insurance coverage you have, plus your personal assets to settle the case. Teen drivers have two strikes against them just for being young and inexperienced and a personal injury attorney will exploit that. Protect yourself and your teen by making sure he is ready for the road.