Your heart just skipped a beat, didn’t it? You know it’s coming — the day you have worried long and hard about is the same day your teenager can’t wait to see: Driving.
It’s not only about safety concerns. As blogger Alex Perdikis points out, cars are safer now than they’ve ever been. It’s also about whether or not your teenager is ready psychologically and emotionally to drive. Is the same kid who set off fireworks in the backyard and nearly set the neighbor’s garage on fire last summer ready to drive a car?
Here are some questions to go over to help you decide if your teen is ready to drive — or should do a little more growing up first.
What Do They Do Now?
You can tell a lot about what kind of driver your teen will be by examining current behavior. Does your son follow your curfew rules? Does your daughter skip school? Even minor infractions are a cause for pause. Does your daughter finish her household chores without prodding? Does your son keep his room clean or, at the very least, clean it when you ask him to? If your teen is lacking in personal responsibility, it’s probably not a good time to let them start driving.
Is Your Teen Young or Old?
You’ve heard people say that someone is a “young 16-year-old.” What they’re really saying is that a certain level of maturity is expected at 16, but the teen in question seems younger. You have also heard people talk about teens who seem older because they are more responsible than other kids the same age. Most teens fall somewhere in between. They are 16, not children and not adults.
You know your child better than anyone. Does he seem immature for a 16-year-old? Does she make bad decisions even though you’ve worked hard to cultivate the right values? Lacking common sense is not uncommon with teens. It doesn’t mean they’re bad or good-for-nothing. It simply means they have some growing up to do before they get behind the wheel of a car.
You also have to take into account any learning or physical disabilities and alcohol or substance abuse issues. A teen who is colorblind may require a little additional training before getting behind the wheel. If your teen has had episodes of alcohol or substance abuse, you may decide to wait and make sure the teen is in full recovery before letting them drive.
What About Their Grades?
There is a direct correlation between good grades and safe driving. In fact, many insurance companies offer good grade discounts. Does your child get good grades in school? If not, make getting better grades a requirement before allowing a permit or license.
Agreeing to Drive Responsibly
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has come up with a parent-teen driving agreement available for download. It’s a contract that parents and teens fill out and sign together. The teen agrees to obey traffic lights, never text while driving and a host of other requirements. The agreement is a great way to emphasize the importance of safe driving and outlines consequences for failing to comply.