Teenage Drivers: How Far is Too Far?
As a parent, it is always difficult to decide exactly how much leeway to give your teenagers, especially when they are driving. It is important to let them experience some freedom to help them learn how to make their own decisions, but you still need to find a balance to keep them safe, too. With their safety on the road as utmost importance, how far should you let your teenager drive?
Teen Driving Statistics
Much information has been compiled about teenage drivers to help you make an informed decision. According to the CDC, the risk of a fatal car accident is almost doubled if your teenager is male instead of female. There are many potential reasons for this, but regardless of the exact cause, it is something to keep in mind.
Randall Sevenish, our Indiana auto accident lawyer suggests that you discuss the potential outcomes of an auto accident with your teen driver. Perhaps reminding him that any accident victim is not just an anonymous individual, but rather someone’s mother, father, wife, daughter or girlfriend, will help your teenager be more cautious when he is on the road.
If your teenage son has a tendency to be easily distracted or reckless, then you will need to consider setting guidelines that keep him from driving too far from certain radius of your general area. This is especially important, as several studies have proven that the longer a person is behind the wheel, the more likely they are to get into a fatigue-induced accident. Of course, female drivers are also highly prone to the effects of fatigue, so teenagers of both genders should be limited to short trips for their safety.
The Impact of Passengers
Having passengers in the car greatly increases the possibility of an accident. In fact, each additional person in the vehicle has a measurable impact on the driver’s ability to safely operate the vehicle. If your teenager is going to be carpooling with his friends, then you should encourage him to take only one passenger if possible, and you should also put tighter geographic restrictions in place. For example, if you will usually let your teenage son drive up to 90 minutes away on his own, you should consider reducing this figure to 45 or 60 minutes when there are passengers in the vehicle.
Nighttime Driving Conditions
As soon as the sun sets, your teenager’s crash risk doubles. Although some teenagers have to drive at night to get home from work, you should set much stricter guidelines for nighttime driving. A good guideline for after dark could be 30 minutes or less with no passengers. If passengers are a must, then the trip should be kept within your immediate local area.
When Should I Relax the Guidelines?
Comprehensive studies of crash data have conclusively proven that teenagers are most likely to get into an accident during their first year on the road, and this is why many parents completely restrict nighttime driving and extended road trips during this time frame. The first year is also the most crucial time to keep your teenager from driving with several passengers.
From a social standpoint, however, teens often feel pressure to give their friends rides once they have a driver’s license. Consider making an agreement that gives them some leeway in this area without allowing them to drive long distances, or at night. By setting parameters everyone will know what to expect. For every six to 12 months that pass without an accident, you can relax the guidelines a bit to give your teenager more freedom.
Ultimately, both parents and teenagers can agree that safety is the most important factor when anyone is driving a car. The more experienced your son or daughter becomes behind the wheel, the more confidence you will have as a parent that he or she will make good decisions when driving. And, that is an accomplishment from which everyone on the road will benefit.
Karla M. Somers is a parent and the daughter of a former driver education teacher. She is a contributing writer for Randall Sevenish, a trusted Indiana auto accident lawyer. The Sevenish Law firm has been representing accident and personal injury victims since 1985, and is a sponsor of the teen driving program called, “I Give My Word,” which encourages teenagers to pledge that they will not drink and drive.