Navigating Teen Driving: Balancing Freedom and Responsibility

Teaching your kids to drive and then letting them go out into the wild can be frightening and exciting. You know they’re intelligent and responsible, but it’s still scary to think about them on their own in a moving vehicle when you’re not around.

a woman sitting in a car with a steering wheel

Photo by Jan Baborák on Unsplash

The key to navigating teen driving and keeping your sanity is to teach them how to be safe and responsible so you know that they will do what’s right when they pull out of the driveway. Here are some tips to help them along during the course of their driving journey.

Why it is important to let kids go and thrive

Teaching your children how to drive and be independent is incredibly beneficial to their development, and it could be a big stepping stone into their lives as adults.

Driving can teach your kids responsibility in several ways, including how they can be mature and independent. Once they’re out driving, you can send them on errands for the family, and it will teach them how they can do chores like that for themselves when they’re eventually on their own. They’ll also learn how to care for their car, including how to pay for insurance, fill it with gas, and complete regular maintenance. While there are ways to teach your kids responsibility at home, there’s nothing like letting them get out there on their own to experience life in their own way.

Learning to drive can also help your children become more social as they hang out with friends and see the world. They can’t get that same experience sitting at home, so driving to places in town is a good stepping stone to more advanced socialization in the future.

Be there to teach them

While there are definite perks to allowing your kids to get behind the wheel, you need to be there from the beginning to teach them how to do so properly and responsibly. When teaching your child to drive, start by talking about the basic operations, from backing up and making safe turns to signaling to other drivers whenever they make a move on the road. Teach them about the signage they’ll see while driving and parking so they know how to follow the rules of the road without breaking the law or injuring themselves. 

It’s also vital to teach your kids lessons about what to do when they’re in a dangerous situation so they can make the proper moves to stay safe. Teach them how to change a tire, check for damage, and tell them who to call if they get into an accident.

You can further work to eliminate the chance of a problem by teaching them about the safety features equipped on their car so they can react accordingly. Many modern vehicles are equipped with lane departure warnings that will gently nudge them back into the lane if your teen goes over the line. That’s a helpful tool, but it can be a little jarring if your teen’s not aware of that feature and the car suddenly moves, so advise them ahead of time. Similarly, many automobiles have automatic emergency braking, but it typically only works at slower speeds; teach your child to drive defensively so they don’t have to rely on that feature.

Once your teen has passed driving lessons and acquired their driver’s license, you can reward them with a thoughtful gift. While a pair of fuzzy dice or sleek steering wheel covers are great, you can further your young driver’s safety and responsibility by purchasing them a gift they may not have, like a tire pressure gauge or portable air compressor so they can fill their tires and reduce the chance of blowouts. A backup camera is another great gift that can be a lifesaver when backing out of parking spots.

Warn about distracted driving

It’s not nice to think about, but it is essential to know that distracted driving can lead to accidents, injury, and death in the worst circumstances. In 2020, 186 teens aged 15 to 19 were killed in distracted driving accidents. That’s why it’s so essential to talk to your teen about avoiding distractions in the car and encourage good decision-making

As a new driver, it can be hard to avoid the excitement of packing a vehicle full of friends while participating in risky behavior, but your teens must learn to be responsible. Teach them to use hands-free devices and hold off on making phone calls or texting friends until the vehicle is properly parked. Even changing the radio station can distract their vision for long enough to lead to a crash.

Parents really need to lead by example when it comes to distracted driving, so when you’re in the driver’s seat, keep distractions to a minimum and keep your phone in your pocket. Do the same when you’re sitting in the passenger seat, teaching them to drive. Keep the music to a reasonable level and your eyes on the road, and there’s a good chance that your teen will replicate that behavior and be responsible when they’re behind the wheel. 

In the end, it’s important that you allow your teen to exercise their freedom and get behind the wheel when the time is right, but make sure to teach them responsibility along the way.

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