If you want to see what mixed feelings look like, watch a parent whose 16-year-old has just brought home a driving learner’s permit! Combined with the relief of knowing that your days as chauffeur could soon be over is the fear of knowing that every year, thousands of teenagers die in traffic accidents, and many more are injured.
While local and state restrictions have made some headway here in Washington, and the pandemic has had a positive effect on traffic accidents in general because of fewer cars on the road, in other places teen accidents are up. The reasons are what you might expect: talking on cell phones and/or text messaging while driving, and just plain exhaustion from too little sleep.
Here is some advice for parents of first-time drivers: First, start training kids to be good drivers as soon as they get their first bicycle. If they can demonstrate understanding of bike safety rules and are conscientious about wearing a helmet, it should earn them more freedom and longer rides.
As they get older, require driver’s training classes whether or not your state requires it. It’s also a good idea to help them prepare responses in advance for peer pressure to take risks on the road. Make sure they know that driving is a privilege that will be revoked if they cause accidents or start getting tickets.
And finally, set a good example. If you don’t want your kids to drink and drive, or disobey texting while driving laws, don’t do it yourself. Watch your own version of “road rage.” And if you want them to wear seatbelts, make it a rule to buckle up whenever you get behind the wheel.
Spell out your expectations very clearly, spell out the consequences if they aren’t met, and stick to them, no matter what. You can’t go too far when it comes to “driving home” responsibility, safety and accountability to your kids…and that’s not just limited to driving. True freedom only comes with responsibility.