Keeping Teen Drivers Safe
Helping your kids learn to drive, and watching them earn their license, is a great milestone for both parents and young drivers. I went through it with my 19 year old twins not that long ago, and I remember it well. The process of getting them their permits and licenses was much less stressful for me than letting them take the car out on their own on a weekend night.
I have vivid memories of digging my car out of a snow bank during a raging winter storm with my son at the wheel. I can also remember wondering what caused several dents on the hood of my car, until my daughter explained that she parked near the basketball hoop at school because it was close to the entrance.
While many teens pick up the basics of driving quickly, they are bound to do some foolish things with your car. Teens behind the wheel are inexperienced, prone to distraction and more likely to underestimate risk – behavior that can have costly consequences.
The good news is that the more education and practical experience teen drivers have, the less likely they are to be involved in a crash once licensed. All states have Graduated Driver Licensing laws in place, which restrict teen passengers and nighttime driving hours while requiring plenty of supervised practice.
In Massachusetts, teen drivers must first obtain a learner’s permit, log 40 hours of supervised driving time and complete a state-approved Drivers Ed program before being eligible for their Junior Operator License at 16 ½ years old. For the first six months, teen passengers under 18 are not allowed with a Junior Operator driving alone. Driving between the hours of 12:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. is prohibited unless accompanied by a parent. There is also a total ban on cell phone use for teen drivers under 18.
Parents should be aware of the restrictions on their teen’s license and be prepared to strictly enforce them. Using a cell phone and having additional passengers in the car are the biggest causes of distracted driving for teens. Having just one passenger increases a teen’s crash risk by 48%, and that risk grows as more passengers are added. Teens should also be reminded not to apply make-up, change CDs, use their iPod or eat while behind the wheel.
It is important for parents to be good role models behind the wheel. When carpooling or driving as a family, resist the urge to multitask with your phone. Always use your seatbelt and obey the speed limit, even if you are running late. Setting a good example is the most powerful way to reinforce the rules of the road for inexperienced drivers.
At Webber and Grinnell, we are experts at helping families navigate the process of adding teen drivers to their auto insurance policy. Call us if you need assistance. I can probably give you a few good pointers for getting your car out of a snow bank this winter, too!