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The teen years are full of a lot of firsts that can make parents very nervous–the first high school party, the first time out after dark, the first kiss, and the first love. For many parents, the “first” that they find most terrifying is the first time their teen gets behind the wheel. Driving can be dangerous, and teen driving even more so. In fact, traffic accident rates for teen drivers are higher than in any other age group. This is due in large part to an overall lack of experience. Seasoned drivers have years, and even decades, of practice assessing risks and detecting hazards while driving, also known as defensive driving. Seasoned drivers are also more likely to wear seat belts, which often cuts down on fatalities.
The teen driving years can be a terrifying time for any parent, but there are ways that you can survive them, and keep your sanity intact. It involves taking an active role throughout the process.
You are going to have to think about insurance even before your child gets her license – especially if she’s using your car for practice. Before she gets her temporary license, and definitely before you head to the nearest parking lot to practice, you need to make sure that your insurance is up to date, and that you will be covered in the event that your teen confuses the gas for the brake and hits a dumpster.
Now is also a good time to start shopping around for insurance, to see where you can get the best rates. Some insurance companies offer existing subscribers discounts for adding a teen driver to the policy. However, you should still check out the competition, because there are some companies that specialize in auto insurance for teens, and they might be able to give you better rates than you can get through your current provider.
There was a time when school districts offered driver’s ed as part of the high school curriculum. Now, as more school districts are cutting back, those programs are getting phased out. But practice makes perfect, and the only way your child is going to get the foundation he needs is by getting behind the wheel as much as possible. In many parts of the country, the only choice is to enroll your child in a private driving school, or teach him yourself. There are resources that say driver’s education courses don’t guarantee results, and that parents are better off taking the reins; there are others who believe that only a certified driving instructor can do the job. Ultimately, it depends on the laws in your state and your state of mind.
If you think you can handle sitting in the passenger seat while your child attempts to parallel park, or merge onto the highway, go for it. If believe you have the patience and composure to correct your child’s mistakes, without losing your cool, then you might be the right person for the jog. However, if you don’t have it, you might want to help him prepare for the written portion, and leave the road portion to someone with a more compatible temperament.
After the License
Once your teen gets his license he is going to want to drive all the time and that could lead to some tension in your household.
First, you should avoid buying him his own car during his first year of driving. At this point he is still fairly inexperienced, so you need to set some boundaries and help him become the responsible driver he needs to be.
- Set a curfew, to limit the amount of time he spends driving after dark;
- Set limits on the number and type of passengers, such as no more than two other people, and only the kids who live within a mile of home. The accident rates for teen drivers go up, with more passengers.
- Set restrictions on behavior while driving, such as no cell phone use, no eating, or no loud music, all of which can cause distracted driving;
- And be prepared to enforce a punishment, such as no driving for a month, if he violates any rules.