Getting a driver’s license is a rite of passage in today’s society, a clear symbol of independence and freedom. I remember the exact moment I finally had an official license in my hand and pulled out of the driveway without any adults in the car. I rounded the corner and hit the gas …
I was a very young 16 and the only thing on my mind was how incredibly cool I was. Whenever I scored the keys from my parents, I picked up a bunch of friends and we drove, windows down, music blaring, seat changing, Chinese Fire Drill and all. Trust me when I say, I was, hands down, the dumbest, if not the luckiest, young driver to ever hit the roads.
And today, to pay back the angels that undoubtedly worked overtime to keep me and everyone on the roads with me safe, I have taken the role of parent to teen driver’s extremely seriously, like I think I take it to a whole new level. So far, we have successfully navigated this very scary time with a no-compromise attitude and very clear expectations.
Driving a vehicle is akin to wielding a weapon and the statistics are terrifying, with car accidents being the number one killer of teen drivers! In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2,416 teen drivers of passenger vehicles were involved in fatal crashes in 2013. Many of these accidents could have been prevented if new driver’s had a better understanding of how to react in certain driving situations and if they also knew how to address potential vehicle maintenance issues, like tires and breaks.
Our number one goal as parents is to keep our kids, their passengers and those sharing the road with them alive. This is a huge responsibility and we have some tips and sage advice for others trying to maneuver this new and frightening world of teen drivers.
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This is not a very popular idea, not among kids, not among busy parents and not among the free-range kids movement. But as a parent I long ago gave up trying to be popular with anyone, so the disapproving eyebrows be darned.
Our teens wait, on average, about one year longer to get their license than the average Colorado teen.
Consider this, a 16 year old is twice as likely to die in an accident than a 30 year old and with all the added distractions, cell phones, texting, and the like, it’s just one less stress point for our kids…and their parents.
More Drive Time
We more than triple the amount of driving time required by the state of Colorado. Instead of focusing on the limited number of hours required, we focus on the individual driver. We start out slow with short trips to the grocery store and build up to longer trips across the country. We focus on driving and teaching at the pace of that particular driver and build upon their skills throughout the year.
By doing so, this enables them to get much more experience in all driving climates. More time behind the wheel with an adult, ensures that they will amass much more experience and statistics show that more experience makes all the difference in keeping teens safe on the road.
We make sure to have our kids drive during the day, at night, in traffic, in town, on the highway, in rain, in snow, on mountain roads, on country roads … the more exposure to different scenarios, the more confident we can be that they will make good decisions in real life situations.
The Right Car
Are you ready for this? We don’t buy our kids their own cars! Dan and I long ago, long before we had kids even, decided that it didn’t matter how much money we had, buying a car was a rite of passage for kids. It’s a goal, it’s something to work toward, it’s something to be extremely proud of once that goal is achieved. And a car they buy with their own hard earned money will be a car they will care about and protect rather than hot rod and take risks in.
But, as our kids got older, we realized there was a much more calculated reason to ensure the cars our teens drive are our cars, instead of their cars. When the cars they drive are owned by us, that means we control where they go, when they go and what time they must be back. That is the exact right kind of car for any teenager, a vehicle that mom and dad have complete control over.
Zero Drug or Alcohol Policy
We talk to our kids about everything and I mean everything and so when the subject of drinking and driving came up, it was a simple conversation. Our teens know how we feel about drugs and alcohol. It’s something that has been a topic of discussion since they were very young and, as such, they are very aware that we have expectations that they won’t ever be involved in such ridiculousness.
However, we are more than aware that teens make stupid decisions and we had to accommodate this fact in our driving talks. They know they can text us, or call us at any hour on any day and we will come assist them. They know this is the case for them as well as their friends.
We have made it incredibly clear that neither are they to ever have even one sip of alcohol when they have a responsibility to drive and they are to go to every extent possible to prevent anyone else from driving while under the influence.
This may sound obvious, but you might be surprised to learn how many teens fail to buckle up while driving. Before we had kids nearing the driving age, even I would sometimes neglect fastening my seat belt for short drives around town. But, in all reality it is such an easy step and is a proven life saver that we now make a habit of ensuring that we and every single one of our children, teens, young adults and babies alike are buckled before we even pull out of the driveway.
Teens are the least likely to buckle up both when driving as well as when they are a passenger. Talk to your teen about the importance of buckling up every time for every ride!
Statistically speaking, teens are involved in less accidents when they are driving alone or with an adult. Fortunately, many states are passing laws limiting the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle with new drivers.
For instance, Colorado law states “that you are not allowed to have any passengers under the age of 21 in the car with you for the first 6 months that you have your license and only 1 passenger under 21 for the second 6 months that you have your license. The only exception to this rule is if your siblings are in the car or if your parents are in the front seat.” (Colorado State Law).
Our kids have been lucky to grow up in a home that has beater cars … cars that are even older than them. How is this lucky, you might ask? Well, they’ve learned how to maintain these old cars to ensure they are in optimal safe running condition. And that means they know how to inspect and check the vehicles they drive for any safety issues that need to be addressed.
Tires might be the most important maintenance on a car. For they are the only part of the car that has direct contact with the road. They affect your cars handling, braking and over all safety. Not to mention that improperly inflated or threadbare tires can result in dangerous blowouts or hinder their performance on slippery roads.
Brakes are important, for obvious reasons. And then there are the windshield wipers, lights, turn signal, mirrors, oil changes and even cracked windshields all are part of vehicle maintenance that have a direct bearing on our teen’s safety!
Handing over the keys to our young teens can be a time filled with worry and anxiety, but by following a few simple rules, it can also be a fun and exciting time for both parents and teens.
Teens are able to test the waters of new found freedom and parents have eager errand runners for weeks, if not months, after they get their license.
I would love LOVE for ya’ll to share your advice to new drivers and/or emotional stories … to reach the most people, use hashtag #SharingSafety.
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I’m super psyched that Michelin is giving away a $600 gift certificate good for new tires!!
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