As the parent of a teenager, you likely have concerns about their ability to operate a vehicle safely when you are not in the car. Teenagers often feel that they are ready for the freedom that having a drivers’ license can give them, but parents often worry that their kids do not have the maturity, skill, or experience to protect themselves and others from harm on the roads.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take as a parent to help your teen be a safer driver. Here are some suggestions:
Step #1: Set a good example.
For your teen to be a safe driver, you should make sure to set a good example of safe driving habits. A parent who drives aggressively or impatiently, tailgates, or speeds will have a harder time convincing their teen to practice patience behind the wheel. Be a good role model for your teen!
When they are learning to drive, set aside time to practice driving with them, and help them with the fundamental driving skills they will need to be safe behind the wheel. Don’t rely on driver’s education classes to give your teen driver all of the skills and experience they will need. Take time to oversee their education as they learn to operate a vehicle.
Step #2: Talk to your teenager about their responsibilities as a driver.
By talking to your teen about the rules and responsibilities they have as a motorist, you can help them understand what they are about to face when they begin driving without you in the car. Studies show that distracted driving, speeding, and driving while intoxicated are common causes of teenage driving accidents, so don’t be afraid to address these issues directly with your teen.
As a parent, you can help your teen driver understand that texting, looking at or posting to social media, and using mobile apps (like navigation apps or streaming music) can create a deadly distraction. Your teen may not understand that taking their eyes off of the wheel for even few seconds to text can be equal to traveling the length of a football field while blindfolded. They also should be taught that eating and drinking, grooming, changing the music on the stereo, and interacting with passengers in the vehicle are also prevalent causes of distracted driving accidents.
Along with distracted driving, talk to your teenager about the dangers of speeding, aggressive driving, and driving while intoxicated. You undoubtedly already have concerns about your child consuming alcohol while underage, but now is the time to reinforce that they should not ever drink and get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol or drugs.
Step #3: Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws and distracted driving laws.
The South Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles requires teens aged 17 years and younger who apply for a drivers license to complete a drivers education course. A 15-year-old may apply for a learner’s permit; a teen who is 15 years old and 180 days may be eligible for a conditional provisional license, at age 16 a teen may apply for a drivers license if that teen has had a provisional license or a restricted for at least one year. It is illegal for any driver to text and drive in South Carolina.
The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) requires all teens 18 years or younger (starting at age 14 1/2) to complete a drivers’ education course before they can obtain a North Carolina learner’s permit. Once they have completed their driver’s education course and have obtained a Driver Eligibility Certificate, teens aged 15 and older can apply for a Level 1 Learner’s Permit.
In North Carolina, there is a texting ban that prohibits all drivers from sending text messages while the vehicle is in motion. There is also a novice driver ban that prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using cell phones in the car at all, even in hands-free mode.
By paying attention to your states’ license requirements and driving laws, setting a good example as a safe and courteous driver, and talking to your children about dangerous behavior and setting ground rules, you may be able to help your teen be a safer driver.