Ask any parent about their teen starting to drive and you’ll get some very entertaining reactions: grimaces, cringing and worried sighs. Everyone knows that learning to drive is a huge milestone that should be taken seriously. But lots of parents don’t know some very important facts about this phase of their family’s life.

Motor vehicle crashes are actually the leading cause of death for 15 – 20 year old’s in the United States. But being a teenage PASSENGER is almost more deadly, because about two thirds of those killed are riding in a car driven by another teenager.

Parents shouldn’t just be concerned when their own teen is driving. Tell your teens to consider themselves co-pilots instead of passengers, ESPECIALLY when another teen is driving.

The phase while a teenager has a learner’s permit is actually a very SAFE time, with a crash rate of about 1%. That’s much lower than the 8% crash rate of most adults. But when a teen gets a driver’s license their crash rate skyrockets to about 50% in the first six months.

That’s not a typo! About HALF of new teen drivers will have a collision in their first six months of driving.

Parents need to know the most risky time is later on, when their child is driving with a license, but without any adult supervision. Give your teens lots of practice time while they have a learner’s permit, so they can develop mature driving skills BEFORE they get their license.

Most states now have “graduated licensing laws.” These are rules about cell phone use, curfew times and numbers of passengers in the car for younger drivers.

These GDL guidelines can cost you! If your teen has a crash while violating those rules, then the law treats them as if they were driving without any insurance, which is very expensive in the short-term, and for many years in the future.

Parents also need to realize that GDL laws are not necessarily “best practice.” The guidelines are meant to increase the safety of younger drivers, but they’re not what research shows might be the safest options.

Parents can choose to make their own family’s driving rules even more strict. You even have the power to temporarily un-license your teen.

Use good judgment about the situation of your individual teenager, based on your honest assessment of their skills, temperament and personality.

Study the research and learn the laws – but KNOW your kid!

Getting a driver’s license is a vital part of the transition to adulthood for our children. These skills are essential! Our kids must learn to drive skillfully and safely, for the rest of their lives.

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The best way for that to happen is under the careful guidance of a parent who loves their teen and takes the time to educate themselves about the best ways to train them for a lifetime of safe driving.

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