So, your teenager is about to earn their driver’s license. How do you feel? Worried? Confused? Relieved? On one hand, a driver’s license means freedom from your duties as a chauffeur. On the other, teenage drivers can be a tremendous source of anxiety. In fact, one survey of 638 parents lists “driving without supervision,” as more worrisome than “using drugs/alcohol” or “having sex.” The worry, it turns out, is not completely unwarranted as automobile accidents kill more people each year on average than alcohol, AIDS, drug use, murder, suicide, airplanes, and even sharks. As if these facts weren’t enough, driving is even more dangerous for teenagers than it is for adults. In 2015, teen drivers were involved in 4,689 fatal accidents, up from 4,272 in the previous year.
Teenage drivers are also more vulnerable than adults when it comes to drinking and driving. According to the CDC, teenagers are 17 times more likely to die from an accident when they have a blood alcohol concentration of .08% (the legal limit for adults). And, while the number of teens who admit to drinking and driving has decreased by 51% since 1991, the number of teens who admit to texting and driving is on the rise.
If drinking and driving doesn’t worry you, distracted driving should. According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, drivers under the age of 25 are three times more likely than older drivers to text while driving. This is likely due to the fact that only 60% of drivers under the age of 25 consider texting and driving to be “highly dangerous.” In contrast, 95% of drivers over the age of 45 consider texting and driving to be highly dangerous.
Knowing this, parents should prepare their child for the road as best they can. Begin by communicating with him or her, sharing experiences and research to show the importance of staying off their device while behind the wheel. While I understand that it may not align with every family’s parenting method, appealing to your child’s desire for digital media and showing them this terrifying video about texting and driving could really help hammer the message home. He or she may hate every minute of it, but the lasting impact could end up being a decisive factor down the road.
Getting your child behind the wheel of a “safe car” does not mean what it did when you went through the same process with your parents. There are plenty of resources at your disposal when it comes to researching the safest cars for teenagers or budgeting for a used car, but try not to deprive your child of high-tech options just because they may not have been around when you were getting your license. Providing your new driver with a vehicle equipped with features like Bluetooth connectivity will teach them how to safely interact with available technologies while keeping their hands on the steering wheel. Honda Accords, for example, have been widely considered among the most dependable vehicles for young adults for years, but now many come wired for Bluetooth.
If you are wary of your driver using any technology that may distract him or her from the road initially, you could practice by separating the two experiences altogether. Enact a new family rule by teaching your child that before the key enters the ignition, the driver’s phone must be locked in the glove compartment (that includes parent drivers). This exercise might also teach experienced drivers to improve our habits as well as our kids.
When ready, hand over the keys and let your new driver experience all the wonderful benefits of freedom that driving has to offer. It’s ok to worry, that’s what parents do. But by taking the necessary steps in making sure your child is well-prepared you will help ease the transition into this next phase of your family dynamic.
Contributor: Jayson Goetz is a young writer whose work primarily focuses on educating readers about the effects of science and technology on today’s society.