Whether you’re terrified about it, excited about it, or a mixture of both, it’s inevitable in every parent’s life - eventually, your teenager will be ready to start driving. About 6.4% of all drivers on the road are between the ages of 15-20, so it’s important that your teen stays safe and is fully prepared before they get behind the wheel on their own.
As a parent, you can encourage them and help them through this major life experience. In doing so, you’ll prepare them for almost every aspect of driving and help to ensure their safety. Driving is a big responsibility, and it’s important to make sure your teen knows that before they put their foot on the gas.
While it’s important for a teen to be accountable for their own actions and learn responsibilities on their own, guiding them through this process can make a big difference in how seriously they take the responsibility of driving.
So, what can you do to get your teenager ready for the road?
- Enroll Them in Driver’s Training
Some fort of driver’s education is required before your teen will be able to get their license. While each state may have slightly different requirements, certain criteria must be met, along with a specific number of hours on the road with a licensed driver.
Your child’s high school may offer their own driver’s education course with someone licensed to teach it. But, if not, you’ll need to look for programs in your area.
In a driver’s education program, your child will learn basic road safety and rules, what certain signs mean, state laws, and more. It’s a great classroom starting point to get them ready to get behind the wheel.
- Sign a Contract
This might seem a little silly at first, but it can help to keep your teen safe and give you peace of mind.
Create a contract that is strictly between you and your teenager. It should outline your expectations for them when they get behind the wheel, and can include things like:
- Safety measures to remember
- Where they can/cannot go
- Not driving while distracted
Obviously, you know your teen better than anyone, so be sure to put things in the contract that are specific to your relationship and any concerns you might have. This shows them that you’re taking their driving seriously, and they should too.
- Download the Right Apps
It might seem counterproductive to download a safe driving app when you’re telling your teen to stay off of their phone. But, some apps can actually help with that! For example, AT&T’s DriveMode app silences any incoming calls or notifications like text messages if the car is going over 15mph.
The best part? There are parental controls on the app that will alert you if it’s ever been deleted from your teen’s phone. There are plenty of apps on the market that offer similar features, so do your research and pick your favorite to keep your teen safe and free from distracted driving. It’s also important that you explain to them why you feel these apps are important.
Distracted driving is the leading cause of car accidents, and many times that has to do with the use of a cell phone. Explaining to your teen that there are often legal consequences to distracted driving could also make them aware of how serious it is. You could also show them how it could impact their entire life, by looking at sites like this one for a Corpus Christi personal injury lawyer.
- Help Them Find a Vehicle
Helping your teen find the right car is important. They may have certain features in mind that they want, but what you should really be looking for is something safe and reliable. You’ll also have to decide whether they should have something new or used. New cars are often far more expensive, but with so many safety features, they can be worth the investment.
In most cases, though, used cars are perfectly safe and reliable. Do your research if your teen has an interest in a particular car. Find out its history, make sure it has a low mileage and take a look at any work that might need to be done on it within the next few years.
It’s also important to teach your teenager the responsibility for basic car maintenance. Keeping your car properly tuned up can increase its longevity, so encourage them to get regular oil changes, make sure the fluid is always topped off, and help them to understand what different ‘warning’ lights mean if they ever come on the dash.
- Hit the Road With Them
Since most driver’s training programs require teenagers to complete specific hours behind the wheel with a licensed driver, why not you? Sometimes, the best teacher is experience. Ride around with your teen while they’re learning the rules of the road. You can give them advice on very specific things, especially if you see them doing something dangerous or illegal.
It’s a great opportunity to give them hands-on experience and to learn a little more about their driving style. From there, you can decide if they need more help, or if you can loosen the reins a little and take some comfort that they’ll be responsible behind the wheel. Make sure you practice in different areas. You know as an experienced driver that driving on the highway is different from driving through a small town or winding country roads!
So, can it be a little overwhelming to think about your teenager on the road? Absolutely. But, preparing them as much as possible before they start driving on their own will allow you both to be more confident and comfortable. Though they might act annoyed or tell you they don’t need your help, deep down every teen has a little bit of uncertainty about driving for the first time. So, take their frustrations with a grain of salt, and know that they do appreciate how much you want to keep them safe while driving.
CANDY TAI is a wife to David and mom of 5 with a degree in Communications. She's a native Texan (Hook 'Em Horns!) who's been making her home in the Kansas City metro area for nearly 15 years. She loves being able to shuffle her kids from their various sports activities, piano lessons, and school activities. She enjoys fashion, beauty, reality TV, and moviegoing.