When your teen gets a driver's license, it's important
to set some rules of the road beyond the relevant driving laws. By
clearly defining your expectations before you hand over the car
keys, you'll reduce the risk of frustrating conflicts, costly
accidents, and other problems. What's more, you'll feel
more confident about your teen's safety.
The rules you establish may cover a wide range of factors such
as seatbelts, passengers, curfews, and dealing with distractions
like cell phones. Try to involve your teen in the process of
creating the rules and consequences.
A few areas to consider include:
It's wise to prohibit multitasking while behind the wheel,
whether it's text messaging, making phone calls, or operating
MP3 players. Give your teen alternatives to these bad habits, like
pulling into a parking lot to answer and make calls and getting
directions before leaving for an unfamiliar place. And be sure to
set a good example in the way you handle distractions while
Many states restrict the number or ages of passengers that teens
can have when they first get their license. Learn the rules in your
state and consider adding others based on your child's driving
experience, temperament, and the driving situations likely to
occur. You may want to start by prohibiting your teen from driving
with peers, then loosening the restriction as your teen gains
experience and comfort.
Ease teens into driving after dark. While many states'
provisional licenses don't require teens to be home until
midnight, you might want to set an earlier curfew, then extend it
as you see fit.
Make sure that your teen driver understands the consequences of
speeding - how it can lead to accidents, costly tickets, demerit
points associated with tickets, and revoked driving privileges. You
might want to make your young driver responsible for paying
speeding tickets and any insurance rate hikes they cause.
Studies show that teens are the least likely age group to wear
safety belts, so it's important to stress the importance of
wearing them. Make buckling up a rule for your teen and all
passengers. Nearly every state fines drivers and passengers for not
wearing seatbelts, sometimes as much as $200!
Drinking and Driving
Teens should understand that driving under the influence of
drugs or alcohol - or getting in the car with someone who is - can
be a fatal mistake. Encourage teens to call for a ride - regardless
of the time or whether they're somewhere off-limits - when in a
situation where the driver has been drinking, and promise to
withhold punishment and questions.
Teach your teen basic car maintenance that will keep the car
safe and prevent breakdowns, such as:
- checking the gas tank
- checking fluids (oil and fluids for the brakes, steering
column, and windshield washers)
- oil change every 3,000 miles
- tire air pressure - tires should be inspected and checked
every time the vehicle is driven
- maintaining clean windows (inside and out) and mirrors
Review tasks like reading a tire gauge and checking oil -
first demonstrating, then supervising as your teen does it. Keep
a notebook in the glove compartment to keep track of when oils,
fluids, and air pressure are checked.
Schoolwork and Other Responsibilities
Consider whether you want to make driving privileges contingent
on maintaining a certain GPA or other responsibilities, like doing
Set ground rules with your teen about which conditions are OK to
drive in and which aren't. Explain that if he or she is driving
and a strong storm starts, it makes sense to pull over and wait it
out - even if curfew is compromised because of bad weather, safety
always comes first.
Consider putting the rules in writing by creating a Driver
Agreement that clearly states the rules and the consequences for
not following them. This eliminates gray areas and stresses that
you take the rules seriously and your teen should too.
And from time to time, get in the passenger seat while your teen
drives. This will give you a sense of how comfortable he or she is
behind the wheel - and how comfortable you are handing over the
keys. Creating rules for the road now can help build a foundation
for safe driving that your teen will have forever.
Kurt E. Gray, MSM
Date reviewed: October 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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