Do you remember how you felt when your parents let you drive a car for the first time? Were you excited, nervous, or some mixture of the two?
You probably feel that same strange mix of emotions when you think about letting your own teen get behind the wheel.
With school starting back in just a few weeks, many high schoolers are dreaming of driving off without a parent in the car – and many parents are dreaming of getting to finish their morning coffee while their teenagers transport themselves to early-morning sports practices!
First-Time Driving: Talk to Your Teen
Now is the time to ask an important question: Is my child ready to drive?
At Taylor King Law, we believe there is a difference between being old enough to drive and being ready to drive. As parents ourselves, we encourage you to strive for discussions, rather than lectures, when it comes to addressing the topic of driving with your teen. Share your concerns and ask them about their own. But don’t let them brush it off with a simple, “Lots of kids drive; it’s not a big deal,” because it is.
Car Crash Statistics for Teens
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers age 16-19. Per mile driven, teenagers are nearly three times more likely to be killed in a fatal car wreck than drivers in any other age group. Driving can be a rite of passage and an important step toward freedom, but it comes with many risks. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of questions to consider before letting your teenager hit the road solo.
5 Questions to Ask Before Handing Your Teen the Car Keys
1. Do they meet your state’s legal requirements?
Getting your driver’s license is no longer a simple matter of passing a test. Most states have some form of Graduated Driver’s License laws, which is a three-step approach to giving young drivers full driving privileges. You might be surprised to learn some of the restrictions in place for new drivers.
Arkansas’s Graduated Driver’s License Law (Act 1694 of 2001) details 3 stages of licensing:
Learners license – May be issued to a driver 14 years or older after passing a written driving test. Drivers with a learners license may not drive alone or without a licensed passenger who is at least 21 years of age; this is called a Class A restriction. This license expires on their 16th birthday.
Intermediate license – Issued to drivers between the age of 16-18. At this stage, teens may drive on their own only if they have been driving with the Class A restriction – that is, with an adult licensed passenger – for at least six months.
Regular license – Issued to drivers at age 18 or older. Drivers must not have any serious accidents or convictions for the previous 12 months on their record, or this license will be withheld.
2. Do they agree to (and follow!) my rules as their parent?
We don’t want to anger any teens out there, but we believe that driving is a privilege, not an undeniable right. Does your teen follow your rules and expectations in other areas of life, such as obeying curfews, completing schoolwork, and contributing to chores around the house? If so, this is a good sign that they are ready for the responsibility of driving. If not, how can you reasonably expect that they will follow safety rules on the road?
One non-negotiable safety rule? Cell phone usage. It is always illegal for teens 18 or younger to use cell phones while driving (except in specific emergencies). This includes both texting and making phone calls.
3. Do they show good judgment and stand strong under peer pressure?
This one might sound silly, but we can’t emphasize it enough. Why? Studies show that within the 16-19 age range, three groups of drivers have a much higher risk of being in a fatal car wreck: male drivers, new drivers, and teen drivers with teen passengers. Teenagers are more likely to make risky decisions on the road when their friends are along for the ride.
This doesn’t mean that you should never let your child drive if they are easily swayed by their friends’ actions, but we do encourage you to set clear guidelines. For example, you might limit the number of passengers who can ride with your teen – or require that they drive alone for a period of time.
4. Do they have adequate driving experience and knowledge of basic car maintenance?
Passing a written driving test is one thing, but navigating rush-hour traffic is another. You can help prepare your child to drive alone by riding with them, often. Practice in low pressure situations and work your way up to heavy interstate traffic.
In addition, teach your teen basic car maintenance skills: how to get fuel, change windshield wiper fluid, use jumper cables, and what to do in case of a flat tire.
5. Is our family financially ready to have a teen driver in the family?
Driving without insurance is an absolute no-go, but insuring teenage drivers can be costly. Before your child begins driving, have an honest discussion about family finances and whether you, as the parents, are willing to cover their insurance costs, or if they might need to work part-time to cover it. The same goes for fuel and, if car shopping is on the table, the purchase of the car itself.
Take note: Some insurance companies offer discounts for students who make good grades or take drivers’ education courses. Ask your own insurance company what they can offer.
We hope these tips will be helpful for you and your teen driver.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car wreck, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Call Taylor King Law at 800-227-9732 for a Free, No-Obligation Consultation today. With over 30 years of experience, you can trust our promise to be on your side, by your side.