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Driving and teenagers
Chaos & Contentment
chaos feb mar

A little while ago I wrote about my children and common sense. This was probably a good lead into the next subject which is driving with teenagers. My son is 16 and is a confident driver. He has driven on the interstate multiple times while we have been on road trips and has been since he was 15. No fear — or so he says. I know better. There are times I’ve seen his face totally stressed out and scare the &%#$ out of me. 

My daughter is the opposite. She is 15 and quickly got her permit. I could tell she is proud; however, she is extremely anxious about driving. She is nowhere near ready to get on busy roads, much less the interstate. With all of this said, I have much more faith in my daughter’s common sense, decision making, and awareness of consequences. This aligns to why she is more apprehensive. 

So what is my job as a parent? To balance how to guide these two polar opposites? So I did some research; yes I Googled it. I thought this would help me zero in on some priorities about teenagers driving. I almost wish I hadn’t! 

The very first thing I pulled up: “According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are nearly three times more likely than drivers aged 20 and older to be in a fatal crash.” 

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), “problems which contribute to the high crash rate of young drivers include: driving inexperience, lack of adequate driving skills, risk taking, poor driving judgement and decision making, distraction, alcohol consumption and excessive driving during high risk hours (11 p.m. to  5a.m.).” 

All teenagers fit into this scope of inexperience or poor decision making. They are teenagers — I  cannot expect more. So what can I do?

Then there is some help offered from AAA. A training program (available on video or CD-ROM) “Teaching Your Teens to Drive: A Partnership for Survival.” 

“Survival?” Really? They make this sound so scary! And didn’t we stop using the term “CD-ROM” like 10 years ago? OK…moving on.

What does the CDC have to say? They suggest creating a “Parent-Teen Driving Agreement.”  

Alright, I’ll admit, when I first read this, I scoffed. I foresee resistance and eye rolling. But it actually is a good idea. There have been times when raising the kids I’ve written rules down for screen time, homework, chores. Rarely did this encourage them to consistently stick to the rules, however, the consequences for breaking rules were written down and they signed it. At the least, there is something in writing that I could refer to when I doubted myself about disciplining the kids. This agreement meant everyone understood the expectations if you (the child) want this privilege. Even if they break the rule, forget the consequences, or I forget — because trust me, I do — there is an original agreement everyone can depend on. The children learn an important lesson about integrity and also holding others to their agreements.

Every parent is going to be different about what the rules are. With technologies similar to Life360, we can track location and speed. I’ve talked to parents that think this is ridiculous. It may not be necessary if you don’t have a rule-breaking child, however, just the safety of this provides comfort to a parent. It is totally up to the parent about which rules are put in place, consequences if the rules are broken, and how they come to these decisions. 

There are multiple reasons for written agreements. Writing down expectations, consequences, and signatures, prepares children for real world agreements and being held to those agreements. As I continuously have said, every child is different and what works for one does not work for others. However, all children can benefit from parents preparing them for agreements. Sign a lease but don’t pay your rent, you get evicted. Agree to a job description but don’t perform, get fired. 

We parents can recite scary statistics to teenagers until we are blue in the face and they will not take it seriously. Unfortunately, experience has taught most of us adults the statistics are real. They will not relate it to their life, unless it has happened to someone close to them. And sometimes that doesn’t stop them. What will stop them is if they lose their freedom, whatever that looks like for them. Parents, be prepared to drive them around again if they lose their privilege! Inconvenience became our life when the second line showed up on that pregnancy test! 

However you choose to move your child to become a good driver is your family’s personal decision. For me, I have two children that are experiencing it and learning it in two very different ways. The foundation for me and them is that the same rules and consequences apply to both of them. Wherever they are in their ability, both started with the same experience (none), age, distractions, and dangers. Common sense, judgement, and maturity to learn are individual to the child. 

It is scary but we must allow them to grow and take these risks. They have a much higher chance of being healthy, productive adults if we support this. “Survival?” Harsh as it seems, I guess we are teaching them their best chances at survival as well.