We’re now in the midst of Teen Driver Safety Week, and while you may think this is yet another gimmick on the cultural calendar, there’s no more important cause. To back it up, here are some sobering stats from the NHTSA:
- Almost half of all teen drivers involved in a crash die.
- 75% of parents have never had a serious talk with their kids about the key components of driving.
- In 2012, 28% of drivers aged 15-20 killed in motor vehicle crashes had alcohol in their systems.
Only parents are capable of understanding the fear that accompanies the thought of their children reaching driving age. For many, that fear is enough to cause them to forbid their teenagers from sliding behind the wheel at all. Is taking such a hard line approach against letting your kids drive all that necessary? Not exactly. There are ways that you can tell if your child is mature enough for the responsibility of taking the keys.
Here are five questions to ask yourself to help determine if your teen is ready to drive.
- How well does your teenager adhere to his or her curfew? Assuming you have a curfew in place, your first indication will be their capability to follow established guidelines. If they’re consistently late coming home after an evening spent with friends, this is clear indication that their maturity level isn’t quite up to snuff with the rules and regulations they’ll be asked to adhere to on the road.
- Does your teenager do well in school? While it’s true that intelligence is no barometer of a person’s ability to drive well and to drive safely, this is something to consider. Depending on the level of aptitude your teenager displays in certain subjects, you might take this as indication as to whether they’re capable of adequately tackling the sometimes complex rules of the road. If your teenager is perfectly intelligent but just doesn’t apply him or herself to school work, take this as a sign that it may be a few years yet before they can safely be given the privilege of driving.
- What kind of company does your teenager keep? Distractions on the road are one of the main causes of car accidents, and there’s nothing quite as distracting as driving around with a bunch of rowdy friends. This isn’t meant to say that only teenagers with few friends should be allowed to drive – but the behavior of your teen’s friends (as well as your teen’s behavior around their friends) will give you an idea of the kinds of distractions they may encounter when driving. To quote motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Also, the multiplier effect increases risk of serious accidents.
- Does your teenager have a cell phone? If so, how do they use it? If they’re constantly walking around with their phone permanently attached, texting or talking with friends, take this as a sign that this activity will very likely translate itself to their driving habits. And then bear in mind that texting while driving has been shown to be as dangerous as driving while drunk.
- How good is your teen about volunteering for chores around the house? This may cause some of you to chuckle – but there are kids out there who feel that as a resident of the household, it’s their duty to pitch in. If your teenager is given to helping around the house without having to be told, threatened, or manipulated into doing so, you’re lucky. And you’re also the parent of a teenager who’s probably mature enough to be driving.
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to determine if your teenager is ready to take on the huge responsibility that comes with getting a driver’s license. If you feel that they’re not ready for it, don’t hesitate to “hit the brakes” on their desire to leap, or drive, headlong into young adulthood.