- Prevention & Early Intervention
Caution: Teen Driving
A driver's license is one of the biggest status symbols among high school students. Getting a driver's license is not only a social asset but it makes the adolescent feel more independent than ever before. Parents no longer have to do the driving - the teen can get places on his or her own. While most teens count the hours and days until they get their driver's license, parents often have concerns and fear for their teen's safety on the road.
According to the American Automobile Association, teenage drivers account for only seven percent of the driving population but are involved in 14 percent of fatal crashes. Traffic crashes are the #1 cause of death and injury for people ages 15 to 19. The factors below contribute to this high crash rate in our young drivers.
- Driving inexperience
- Lack of adequate driving skills
- Risk taking
- Poor driving judgment and decision making
- Alcohol consumption
- Excessive driving during the high risk hours of between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Learning To Drive
When a teenager obtains a learner's permit they can start to drive with an adult present in the car. In most cases the best way for teens to learn to drive is through a driver's education class. The completion of a driver's education class is a requirement for teens to take their road test. Teen drivers need to get as much driving experience as possible after they obtain their learner's permit. In Ohio, teens need 50 hours of driving experience (including 10 hours at night) before they can take their driving skills test. Driving experience generally makes the teen a safer driver and eases the transition to driving independently.
Parents are in a unique position to show their children proper driving skills. However, not all parents have the temperament to teach driving. Parents who find themselves yelling, making sarcastic remarks or being upset should ask their spouse, another relative or a friend to help out.
The Driver's License
When teens pass the official driving test they receive their driver's license and can legally drive independently. Parents, however, should not allow their teen to drive independently until the teen has sufficient experience and the parents are comfortable with the teen's level of driving skill. Parents should talk candidly with their teen about the dangers and risks of distractions such as music, passengers, eating food and using cell phones. Parents should also discuss and demonstrate the importance of controlling emotions while driving.
Teens should also be taught about the importance of defensive driving. Inexperienced drivers often concentrate on driving correctly and fail to anticipate the actions and mistakes of other drivers. Additionally, parents should make sure that the vehicle their teen drives is in safe condition and working properly. The vehicle should have essential emergency equipment and the teen should know how to use it.
The Parent-Child Agreement
Rules for new drivers should be agreed upon in advance. There is greater opportunity as well as willingness to discuss expectations and reach agreement. Supervised behind-the-wheel driving experience is the key to developing necessary habits and skills for safe driving. Parents should discuss their expectations regarding safe driving and be clear regarding the consequences for behavior they deem to be risky. The benefits will be a safer driver, less stress and conflict and even some welcome help in carpooling!
- Young drivers should not have unrestricted driving privileges until they have gained sufficient experience.
- Driving alone at night or in adverse weather conditions should be restricted until the teen has greater skill and experience.
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal and should be strictly prohibited.
- Parents should work out when and where the teen is allowed to drive the car.
- Everyone in the car must wear seat belts at all times.
- Parents should determine when their teen can drive passengers, and how many.
- Parents and teen should discuss what behaviors or circumstances will result in the loss of driving privileges.
- Teens should understand their responsibility for paying for gas, upkeep, etc.
- Teens should not drive when fatigued or tired.
- Headphones should never be worn while driving.
- Cell phone usage should be restricted when driving.
Did you know?
The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign asked youth ages 9-17 why people choose to stay away from drugs. The #1 answer chosen was family. Parents do not always realize how important their role remains as their children grow into adolescents. Positive communications between children and adults, limits set and enforced by parents, and positive adult role models help teens resist drugs as well as other risk behaviors.
Unofficial rules of adolescence
Adolescence represents a developmental stage during which both teens and their parents test the limits and boundaries of control. The following rules, while not advocated, can be expected in today's society.
- Fitting In - Finding a group in which you can feel accepted.
- Trying Out - Testing boundaries by trying out new experiences.
- Trying On - Trying on different identities or “costumes” that may or may not ultimately fit.
- Saving Face - Avoiding feelings of rejection, humiliation, failure and shame.
- Getting Over - Breaking, bending or ignoring rules just to prove you can.
- Getting Some - Coping with sexual tension generated by changing brain and body.
- Getting Mine - Sense of entitlement born of exaggerated focus on materialism.
- Getting Out- Avoiding the claustrophobic perception of dependence and subservience.
This article includes excertps from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Pamphlet No. 76, "Helping Your Teen Become a Safe Driver," and "Unofficial Rules of Adolescence" by Scott Frank, M.D., M.S., director of Shaker Heights Health Department and the Master of Public Health Program, Case Western Reserve University.