Is your teen itching to get behind the wheel? Are you experiencing mild panic attacks because your teen is approaching the legal driving age? Fellow parent, you’re not alone, and you’re not wrong. According to the CDC, the crask risk is particularly high during the first months of licensure. Data from the 2017 National Household Travel Survey indicate that the crash rate per mile driven is 1.5 times higher for 16-year-olds than it is for 18 – 19 year-olds.

Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate or not be able to recognize potentially dangerous driving situations. Statistics reflect that teens are also more likely than adults to make important decision errors that lead to serious crashes.

Most teenagers believe that they’ll just know how to drive without any issues, and it will become second nature immediately. They’re not entirely wrong – it will become second nature, but it will not be immediately. While reaching a certain age may deem a teen as a legal driver, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual is mature and knowledgeable enough to drive.

Parents must invest time and energy into getting their teens ready to drive. Even though most teens are required to take a driver’s education course, the continued teachings will be forgotten if parents do not stress the responsibilities associated with having a license and operating a motor vehicle.

If you’re wondering whether or not your teen is ready to drive, here is the checklist we suggest you and your teen complete:

1. Understand the eight danger zones.

Make sure you and your young driver are aware of the leading causes of teen traffic crashes. Knowing these high-risk situations will help you and your teen driver take the necessary precautions when driving. The eight danger zones are: driver inexperience, driving with teen passengers, nighttime driving, not using seat belts, distracted driving, drowsy driving, reckless driving, and impaired driving.

It’s not a bad idea to regularly discuss these high-risk zones with your teen and reiterate the importance of abiding by the regulations in place to prevent potential problems.

2. Simple car maintenance and vehicle operation knowledge.

Your teen doesn’t need to know how to replace a head gasket, but they should know the general layout of a vehicle and the functionality of main parts. Knowing this will help your teen troubleshoot or call for assistance if their car has unforeseen issues. Some simple things that are often taken for granted are: how to jump a vehicle, how to fill up a gas tank, how and where to pour windshield wiping fluid, how to change windshield wiper blades, how to put air in a tire and read the air pressure gauge, how to not flood an engine (if a car is not turning), how and when to their hazards, how to properly pull over, and how to read the gauges to make sure the car is not in jeopardy of over heating.

The responsibility of a car is far more than just driving it. Car problems happen, and you do not want your teen to be in a situation where they are not able to deal with the basics.

3. Your teen has proper phone etiquette.

Before cell phones, this was not a huge issue; however, in this digital age, it is important that teens understand how a phone can impair an individual’s driving. Create a punishment if your teen is caught operating their phone while driving and explain the importance of keeping their attention on the road. Everyone gets in those situations where they think they are the best driver and can balance it all, but taking your attention off the road can be a matter of life or death.

4. Maturity.

As parents, we know what our teen’s maturity level is, and it is important to use personal judgment when allowing a teenager to get behind the wheel. Yes, the law may say your child is ready to have a license, but their actions may articulate differently. If you don’t feel like your child is mature enough to responsibly drive, be honest about their driving destinations, say no to friends who pressure them to be passengers, or operate the vehicle in a safe manner, then your teen just isn’t ready. And that is okay!

Have honest ongoing discussions with your teenager and explain why or why not they should drive. It is important to communicate your frustrations and concerns, so your teen can work on improving. Provide your teen with goals and benchmarks, but also be willing to coach them along the way.

5. Review the rules.

Does your teen know how many passengers they are allowed to have? Does your teen need to follow a curfew? Does your teen understand parking restrictions? Is your teenage driver familiar with regularly traveled speed limit zoning?
If you answered yes to all of those questions, then your teen has mastered this task on the checklist. All drivers need to know their state laws and be willing to abide by the rules. It is important to educate your teen because a mistake could be a costly error that impacts your wallet. Penalties could range from a parking ticket, a tow, or a speeding ticket.

Even though there is an age requirement for holding a license, parents must be willing to look outside of the box and determine whether or not their child is ready for the responsibility of driving. It is important to convey, to your teen, that driving is a privilege and responsibility. If your child sees it as a right of passage, they will not fully understand the number of things that go hand in hand with operating a vehicle.

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