Parenting an adolescent is challenging, especially when they begin to drive. Teens are excited to have a new found freedom and it's one more step towards being an independent adult. Unfortunately, no matter how much behind the wheel training they have, teens are still inexperienced drivers and can make poor judgment calls or serious mistakes only an experienced driver would know to avoid. This inexperience makes motor vehicle crashes the leading cause of death for children aged 16 to 19 years-old.
In honor of National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 16th to October 22, 2016), it's important to remember that your teenager faces a number of risks as he or she sets out on the open road. Distracted driving, which includes the use of texting; having friends or even a sibling in the car can elicit emotional responses that break adequate concentration; speeding; not wearing a seat belt; driving at night; driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs; or driving when tired are the most common risks they face.
Informing your children about the risks and incorporating certain household rules for your teenager to have the privilege of driving are important. Following the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) is one more thing you can do to prevent serious crashes. The Tennessee GDL program requires those with permits to drive at least 50 hours supervised-10 of those hours must be at night, restricts teen drivers from driving during the most dangerous period of the night from 11:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m., prohibits more than one passenger in the vehicle and they must be at least 17 before obtaining a full, unrestricted license.
Additionally, the State of Tennessee bans cell phone use for teens until they have their full, unrestricted license. During that ban, they are not permitted to even use a hands-free device. However, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving.
It is important for parents to practice often with their teens and to be a good role model as they instruct or counsel their new drivers. Riding with them on a regular basis will allow not only one-on-one time together but will also allow you to check on their driving progress and to correct any errors in judgment along the way.