Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

King of the Road : Teens Behind the Wheel



When our oldest turned sixteen it felt like I was turning sixty. The days of playful parenting had been replaced with teaching her how to be a responsible driver.  With her new driving license she was often behind the wheel of a car!  I could not find a "parental driver's manual," so I began to ask my friends who had older children, "How do you keep them alive?

In the days before many of the laws regarding "teen drivers"changed, parental wisdom served our family well. A few 'family rules' that we borrowed (and interesting later became law) regarding our teens driving privileges involved the following: 
  • For the first 3 months of having their license the only person allowed to sit with them in the front seat was an adult over the age of 21. 
  • For the first 6 months of driving, family members were their only allowed passengers. Friends had proved too be distractable. 
  • For the first 3 months, they were not allowed to turn on the radio. (We know that this was difficult to enforce, but we believed we were at least making them think before they turned it on.) 
  • For the first 6 months they were not allowed to drive at night alone.
  • For the first few months they were allowed to have siblings in the car, but only in the backseat and the siblings had to understand how they could help prevent an accident and be a set of extra eyes. 
  • In the days before cell phones, they were required to tell us of their route and destination plans.
  • No Eating while driving. 
I will never forget that the first day our oldest daughter received her license was the first day she lost it. She told me she was going one place and would be back at a certain time. Two hours later she arrived home with a friend in tow. All of our children, as they have acclemated  to becoming "King of the Road," have tested the "family law." And in the attempt to instill in them the need for maturity while driving, a few of them from time to time, have lost their license. 

Teens often feel empowered by the freedom that driving brings. What they don't always understand is that as a teenager their parents are legally liable for damages if they are in an accident. Not to mention the mental, social, and physical repercussions that an accident will bring upon all involved parties. Through the enforcement of "family law", parents are protecting not only the financial, legal and social integrity of the family but are also attempting to teach important lessons that may prove to one day save a life. 

In my years as a parent we have known the following cases that have lead to the grave accidents and even the death of teenage drivers and or their passengers:
  • My son's baseball teammate upon driving to school one morning tried to pass a dump-truck on a narrow bridge. He hit a telephone pole that consequently fell upon the car killing a sibling passenger. 
  • My daughter's classmate driving during the early morning hours upon the rural Indian roads, hit black ice that caused them to swerve and fatally hit a tree. 
  • My son's friend who became jittery over the intention of another driver drove too fast to "get away."  He consequently ran several stop signs before being pulled over by police.  
  • My son's friend from church who on her first day of driving managed to swipe the door of her car against a telephone pole. 
  • My daughter admittedly fell asleep at the wheel (I am told at a traffic light) while driving to early morning class.
  • My sister who hit a traffic pole while "doing her hair." 
  • My high school classmate who while driving a bus (it was legal at the time) ran over a unseen Kindergardener on a Big Wheel.
There are many distractions to driving. While texting and cell phones have in the recent years called particular attention to teen-driver safety, wise parents will consider the many other distractions that teen drivers are faced with and consider drawing up some sort of guidelines to help their teens learn how to stay alive behind the wheel. 

What rules did your family have while you learned to drive? 

What situation have you as a parent been concerned over and wondered how other parents have dealth with them? 

By Linda Shaw

Image: nuttakit

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