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With these resources, you’ll feel better about handing over the keys to the Traverse

By Heather Spohr

 

One of a teenager’s most exciting rites of passage is when they learn how to drive. For the parents of teens, however, this time is a little less exciting and a whole lot more nerve-racking. Thankfully, there’s a lot that parents can do to help their teenagers take this important step as responsibly and safely as possible. Check out the tips below, and breathe a little easier next time your teenager asks to borrow the family Traverse.

Learn Your State’s Graduated Driver’s Licensing Laws

Since the 1990s, nearly every state in the nation has passed graduated driver’s licensing laws (GDL laws), which put restrictions on new drivers until they gain more experience behind the wheel. These restrictions include limiting the number of passengers, imposing a curfew for driving at night and banning any and all cell phone usage. Parents should learn the specific GDL laws in their state (detailed here), and make sure their teenager follows them—no ifs, ands or buts.

Sign a Parent/Teen Agreement

It’s a smart idea for parents and their teenager to sign a Parent/Teen Agreement, which spells out the restrictions, privileges, rules and consequences of driving. This agreement puts parents and their teens on the same page (literally), and makes expectations clear from the beginning. For best results, parents must consistently enforce the agreed-upon consequences, and being able to point to a signed document definitely makes doing that a whole lot easier.

Ask for a “Flight Plan”

Studies have shown that teenagers have fewer accidents when driving somewhere specific as opposed to “joy riding” with no set destination. This is why it’s wise for parents to insist that their teenager never gets behind the wheel without filing a “flight plan.” Teens don’t have to be wearing aviator glasses, of course, but they do have to communicate to their parents exactly where they’re going and when they’ll be home.

Always Model Good Driving

Remember that anti-drug PSA from the 1980s where a kid shouted at his dad, “I learned it from watching you” at his dad? Well, teenagers learn how to drive by watching their parents, too. If you focus on driving the speed limit, following the rules of the road, and avoiding distractions, the only time your teen will say “I learned it from watching you” is when you ask them how they’ve become such an incredible driver.

Make Consequences of Drinking and Driving Clear

Teenagers understand that drinking and driving is dangerous, but they’re often unaware of how much a drunk driving conviction would impact their lives. Parents should explain to their teen that most states have zero tolerance for drivers under 21, which means they will have their license suspended if a breathalyzer test detects even a blood alcohol level of .01. Additionally, parents should walk their teen through the thousands of dollars of fees and costs associated with a DUI, and how it will impact their insurance for 3-5 years. With teenagers, the prospect of losing their license as well as their spending cash may be the biggest deterrents of all.

Discuss Distractions

Today’s teenagers have serious distractions behind the wheel. The most serious of these distractions is texting while driving. To demonstrate just how dangerous it is, parents can show their teenagers anti texting-and-driving videos available online, and ask them to take the “It Can Wait” pledge, which proclaims that “no text is worth the risk.” Teenagers can even upload their pledge to Facebook.

Resources

Here are a few resources parents should check out before handing over the car keys to their teenager:

“Teen Driver: A Family Guide To Teen Safety” was created by The National Safety Council and General Motors, and is full of in-depth, indispensable information.

“From Reid’s Dad: A Blog For Parents Of Teen Drivers” is full of resources and reflections written by Tim Hollister, who lost his teenage son, Reid, in a car accident.

“The Good Egg Guide For Parents of New Drivers” aims to “help keep your sons and daughters safer behind the wheel.”

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Heather Spohr is a writer and philanthropist who blogs at the award-winning The Spohrs Are Multiplying.