Your teen may think they’re ready to hit the road on their own, but you know it’s your responsibility to make sure they understand the importance of safe driving before they go solo. After months of driving lessons, you may still be wondering if they’re ready — even after they’ve passed their driver’s test. Here are some tips to help ensure your teen is ready to conquer the road alone.
1. Ensure They’ve Successfully Completed A Graduated Driver Licensing Program
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a graduated driver licensing (GDL) program is a three-step approach that restricts potential high-risk driving situations for teens — and all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia have adopted a GDL program. As your teen moves through the phases of your state’s program, they’ll continue to learn and earn their right to full driving privileges. Here are the three GDL phases, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III):
- Learner’s Permit: A supervised learning period where the student must drive with a licensed adult and complete road knowledge and vision tests.
- Intermediate License: After completing advanced training and passing a required road test, a new driver earns their intermediate license. Certain driving situations, such as driving alone at night, are still prohibited in this stage unless accompanied by a licensed adult. The driver must remain accident-free and not incur any traffic violations over a set period of time before completing this stage.
- Full License: A license with full driving privileges is earned.
You may want to check your state’s individual GDL program laws as requirements vary by state.
2. Talk to Your Teen About Safe Driving
Don’t wait until your teen is driving and ready to get their license before emphasizing the importance of safe driving behaviors. The NHTSA says you should start this conversation before they even reach your state’s legal driving age. Talk to your teen about safe driving habits and rules of the road, such as wearing their seat belt and following the speed limit at all times. Parents should also focus on setting a good example for their children when it comes to safe driving behavior, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. While your child is in the car with you, practice the rules and habits you share with them so they can see your advice in action — the NHTSA states that children typically learn the most by watching their parents.
3. Have Them Make A Commitment to Safe Driving
Whether they’re doing the driving or simply along for the ride, teens should commit to following the rules of the road in order to keep everyone in the vehicle safe. Once you’ve talked with your teen about safe driving behaviors, consider putting some rules in writing. You could think of it as a contract your teen signs that has consequences if any rules are broken. For example, if your state doesn’t limit the number of passengers your teen can have in the car, you could consider enforcing your own rule, says the NHTSA. If they break that rule, you could revoke family car use privileges for a period of time. It might not hurt to enforce rules stating that your child must follow your state’s laws, either.
4. Talk About the Dangers of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving has become a large topic of discussion within the last few years. Many states have passed laws against distracted driving, including using your cellphone while on the road, says the III, but it can be especially tempting for teens to change the radio, eat or use their phone when behind the wheel. When talking to your teen about safe driving, consider discussing the importance of resisting common distractions when driving. You could even consider implementing a rule such as “no cellphone use while driving” in your safe driving contract.
Many parents would probably agree that they experience some anxiety as their teen pulls out of the driveway on their own for the first time. But, by teaching your kids safe driving habits early on, you can help ensure that they are ready to get behind the wheel alone.
Originally published on January 2, 2012.