Driving provides teens with a lot of new independence. And while that is mostly a good thing, it also provides a lot of new opportunities for your child to get into trouble.
Many factors usually go into when a teen can start driving. One of the biggest ones is financial. Is there even a car available that your child can drive? Will he have his own car? Can you afford insurance for your new driver?
Once you get past the financial aspects of whether or not your teen will be able to drive, you have to begin thinking about safety. Is your teen ready to drive?
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 'motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young people 15 to 20 years of age, causing roughly one-third of all fatalities in this age group.' And teens are more likely to be in a car crash than older drivers, being 'involved in 14 percent of all traffic fatalities' although they just make up only 7% of the population.
Many of the reasons that teens are more likely to have an accident include that they can be inexperienced, immature, and are more likely to take risks than older drivers.
Although it is hard to make your child more mature or learn to take less risks, you can make sure that he is an experienced driver before he has full driving privileges. This is the goal of many graduated driver licensing programs.
With a graduated license, teens have restrictions on their driving privileges until they get more experience and can show that they are responsible drivers. Graduated driver licensing programs in Maryland, Oregon and California have shown a decrease in crashes among teens.
In many of these programs, after getting a learner's permit at age 15 to 16, teens can graduate to an intermediate or provisional license after 6 months of problem free driving (no accidents, no tickets, etc.). This intermediate license allows unsupervised driving during the day and early evening (usually from about 5am to 10pm), but teens must be supervised by an adult at other times. A regular unrestricted driver's license is usually not issued until the teen is 17-18 years old and has had another 6 months of problem free driving.
Other restrictions of an intermediate license might include not allowing more than one teen passenger.
Does your state have a graduated licensing program? Many do, including the following 31 states, including California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Even if your state doesn't have a graduated license program, you can implement many of the features of these programs on your own, especially if your teen is immature or seems to take a lot of risks.
You might also consider using a driving safety contract between you and your teen. This is an agreement that your child signs, in which he agrees to be a safe driver by following all restrictions you have imposed or risk losing his driving privileges.
Although placing restrictions on your teens driving may be inconvenient, as you may have to drive or chauffeur them around, remember that in 2000, 2,623 children aged 15-19 died in motor vehicle accidents. An additional 520,588 teens had nonfatal injuries from car accidents.
Also, set a good example for your children by following the rules of the road, avoiding road rage, not getting distracted when you are driving, and always wearing your seat belt.