You’ve been denying it since they turned fifteen and took the Missouri instruction permit exam. As your sixteen year old dreamed, you dreaded. They jumped at every chance to take the wheel, even when it was a simple four-minute drive to the grocery store. Meanwhile, you spent hours pouring over parenting blogs and reviewing the devastating teen car accident statistics. You know the dangers like the palm of your hand. Car crashes still are the leading cause of death among Americans ages 15-19.
Despite the apprehension and worry, you can’t sit in the passenger seat forever, and neither can they. You taught them the way of the wheel, and now that they have their Missouri driver’s license, it’s time to put your driving lessons to the test.
The time to pass off the car keys is now, and with them greater opportunity for risks and responsibilities.
By having a driver’s license and driving privileges, a teen unlocks the door to chances unavailable to them beforehand, like having a part-time job or joining more after-school activities.
Before you say, “Ready, set; let’s go,” what are some ways you as a parent can help prepare them for the windy roads ahead? Whether they travel along windy back roads or long stretches of highway, you want them to be ready.
Elect for Drivers Ed
According to the Missouri DMV, teenagers do not have to complete the classic formal drivers education. They are required to complete 40 hours of driving under supervision.
Drivers education is available online, which would make it that much easier for your teen to learn more about driver’s safety, defensive driving, and possible hazards. While the 40 hours of driving with you or another adult will be beneficial, there is only so much you can teach them.
Explain Auto Cost, Maintenance, and Insurance
Whether you are paying all of the car bills or they are taking a leap of self-sufficiency, an important conversation to have with your teen is about the overall financial cost of driving. Adding up to these costs are car payments, repairs, and insurance.
A recent Forbes article highlighted just how costly it is to have a teen driver in the house, and that is just in terms of insurance. It should come as no surprise, that when you add a teen driver to a couple’s auto insurance, your auto insurance rates soar, some by almost 80 percent. If you have a son, your insurance rate will most likely increase by an average of 90 percent. If you have a daughter, it will increase by just over 65 percent. And remember: from traffic tickets to car accidents, your insurance will be affected by a teen driver’s actions—bumping up your family’s rates as a whole.
Explain these costs to your son or daughter to not only prepare them for the day they are paying these costs by themselves, but also to let them know that being reckless not only can hurt their safety, but also their finances.
Discuss Distracted Driving:
It’s no secret that driving while distracted is a sure way to increase your chances of an accident. These distractions can be anything from friends in the car to a cell phone conversation. Laws in Missouri do what they can to protect drivers, young and old, by enforcing restrictions on cell phone use while driving and monitoring the amount of passengers in the car for teenage drivers.
A recent report conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that teens are the largest proportion of drivers who are distracted at the time of a fatal crash. Almost 60 percent of the casualties were the teen drivers themselves.
Ironically, the newest, youngest drivers are actually less likely than any other age group to use a cell phone while operating a vehicle. When these drivers start out, they are likely to be tentative and keep both hands tightly wrapped around the steering wheel. As drivers get more comfortable, though, they start to take more risks, such as using a cell phone, playing with the radio, or piling passengers in the car. Why not change the song on their iPhone while driving? Why not answer a text at a stoplight?
Set an example yourself and do your best not to be tempted by distractions while driving. By doing this, you will exhibit that even the best drivers, no matter what age or experience level, can put themselves in danger by using a cell phone or being distracted on the road.
Don’t be the Distraction
According to a recent article in USA Today, research presented to the American Psychological Association showed that 53 percent of teens that were on the phone while driving were on the phone with a parent. The teenagers interviewed for the study reported that parents would call and call until the teen would answer. They get it; you’re worried about them. Have the discussion with your child that it is okay that they do not answer your call if they are driving. Assure them that even their calls can wait ten minutes and you will not be angry if they do not answer right away if they are driving. Perhaps advise your teen to put their phone on silent so they are not even tempted at all.
Some parents ask their teens to text them before and after they leave places. Not only does this reassure you that they are safe, but it will save you a missed call if you phone them while they are driving.
Show Confidence and Support
When your teenager gets his or her license and takes the wheel solo, so many of your duties as a parent are relinquished. Gone are the days of reading your book in the parking lot outside the dance studio, waiting for your daughter to emerge. No longer do you need to worry about cramming six hungry neighborhood football players into your worn-out minivan. Your parental obligations change drastically.
By showing confidence in their driving abilities and support of their newfound independence, you are encouraging them to take the wheel responsibly and not be tentative or wary about it. While you do not want your teen to be an aggressive driver, you do want them to be confident enough to operate smoothly, and with your support behind them, you could enable them to do so.