Parenting Teen Drivers: The Blog
I've made a few revisions to the latest version. The most significant is the addition of a section establishing rules for the young person's riding with other teen drivers. I've struggled with this issue for years. Jumping in the car with a bunch of other teenagers is a very dangerous thing. But, it's something that doesn't lend itself to enforceable, hard-and-fast rules.
I wrote a full contract about this, designed for parents of kids age, say, 14-16 and had it posted here for a couple of years. Unlike the main Teen Driver contract, I just don't have any evidence that it got much use.
But those rules are available to be pulled out of the contract as needed. And, the suggestions for dealing with this tough issue remain here.
As the wave of press coverage on the dangers of texting while driving continues, a couple of thoughts.
First, I am hopeful that the high level of awareness about the dangers of texting while driving, while important, doesn't soften the focus on ordinary use of cell phones while driving. We have to remember that using one's cell phone to have a conversation while driving appears to create a risk similar to drinking and driving. Texting appears to be worse, yes, but "distracted driving" is the overarching issue.
I thought about this again a couple of nights ago when 60 minutes re-ran a report about a district attorney who has prosecuted DUI cases as murder and not as manslaughter. What do we think ought to be appropriate efforts to prevent DUI? What do we think we ought to do in the way of prosecuting DUI cases? Given that the risk of driving while using a cell phone poses a similar risk and texting while driving seems to create an even higher risk than DUI, how exactly do we plan to argue that the legal penalties for texting, or even talking on a cell phone, while driving, shouldn't be similar? What will the argument be?
Wow. There's been a flood of coverage of the risks associated with texting while driving and, properly, we're not just beating up on teens--but challenging all of us about this reckless behavior. The NYTimes has done a particularly job of giving this issue the attention it deserves.
NYTimes reports on the Virginia Tech study suggesting a 23 fold increase in crash risk when texting.
And, in case you missed it, here's CNN coverage of the harrowing video of the bus driver who crashes while texting:
Writer William Saletan: It's time to talk about how we can give up cell-phone use while driving.
Let's stop pretending that we aren't doing it, that we're doing it safely, or that it can be done safely. There's too much evidence that none of these things is true.
The New York Times is reporting that research evidence on distracted driving, particularly driving while using cell phones, was withheld for political reasons.
"...the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, decided not to make public hundreds of pages of research and warnings about the use of phones by drivers — in part, officials say, because of concerns about angering Congress."
Great columns on parenting teen drivers at
|Ok, here's a thing that's been bothering me for a couple of years and I'm embarrassed to say that it's taken me this long to come up with a decent, although not perfect, solution.|
Here's the paradox: This whole contract concept is based on the idea that we be willing to say to our new drivers: "You can't drive until you agree to these rules in writing." And, related to that, if we learn the rules of the contract are violated, it's about being willing to take the keys and suspend driving privileges for a time.
The problem is that it increasingly seems true that a lack of driving experience is the main problem, more than youth. It's complicated, but there's no question that lack of experience is a key problem.
So, if we delay letting our teenagers drive, or if we take them off the road in response to rule-breaking, when they're off the road they aren't becoming better drivers because they're not getting experience.
Here's my suggested solution, which I've incorporated into this website. If your teen refuses a contract (and no one has ever told me that their teenager has held out more than a few hours) or if you have to pull driving privileges under the terms of the contract, pull INDEPENDENT driving privileges and revert to "Learner's Permit Mode." Encourage, even require, your teenager to drive, but drive with a parent in the car with them. Keep this up during the time that the teenager's independent driving privileges are suspended.