Most teenagers feel that they should have a new car and the ability to use it whenever they want the second that they turn sixteen. While this is a nice fantasy, the reality is that driving is dangerous, and most teens are ill equipped to handle the pressures of operating a vehicle in stressful situations. Teens who are handed a car on a silver platter on their sixteenth birthday may appreciate the car less, and take less responsibility for their driving decisions. Because teens have a tendency to be easily distracted while driving, it’s important to understand the common causes of distraction when teens are driving, and find ways to determine if your child is ready to deal with these pressures and drive responsibly.
Causes Of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving can be caused by anything from dropping a wrapper on the floor to adjusting the heat in the car. The difference with teens is that the problem is compounded by their lack of experience, and their inability to block out the distraction because they know how dangerous the situation can become. Some common causes of distracted driving in teenagers are:
- Texting and phone calls
- Friends in the car
- Smoking, drugs, or alcohol
- Eating and drinking
These are just a few of the things you should watch for when driving with your teen, to see if they pay more attention to the distraction than they do to their driving.
For some reason, teenagers often feel they are invincible, and that nothing bad will happen to them. They often feel their parents are paranoid and overprotective, and that they are mature enough to handle big decisions in life. While it is important to allow your teen to have some responsibility and make some big decisions, the reality is that most sixteen-year-old children simply don’t have the higher level thinking skills to accurately consider the consequences of each action they make. They also tend to be impulsive decision makers, and make quick judgment calls about things that should be studied and researched. Each of these factors combines to form a perfect storm unless your teen is prepared to handle any situation when driving.
Four Questions To Consider
When your teen is nearing the golden age of sixteen, and you are wondering if they have proven themselves responsible enough to handle the privilege of driving a car, consider the four following questions, and how they pertain to your teen.
1. Is my child easily distracted by his or her surroundings, or does he or she seem to be unaware of the behavior of other drivers?
Obeying all the laws of the road while you are in your car is unfortunately not enough to always keep you safe. It’s necessary that every driver practice defensive driving, and be as aware as possible of all other drivers on the road. This means that your teen is alert and aware enough that if the car next to them tries to come into their lane without noticing them, he or she is able to calmly handle the situation, and is aware enough to notice the car before an accident occurs. If your child is easily distracted or seems to not care for the behavior of other drivers, they may need some more practice time and experience before they are ready to hit the road on their own.
2. How are my child’s reflexes? Are they able to do more than one thing at a time, or will they lose control of the car if they are forced to multitask?
If pushing the gas were the only thing to focus on, driving would be simple. Unfortunately, there are many aspects to vehicles, and your teen must be able to handle several of them at once. This is especially true if the car your child will drive has a manual transmission rather than an automatic one. If your teen is struggling with multi-tasking when driving, give them opportunities in which they can practice before they get behind the wheel of a car. Practice the skill in a safe area to give your teen experience with how to handle the problem.
3. What kind of an attitude does my child have? Is he or she arrogant or reckless about driving? Do they understand the importance of caution when driving?
A little bit of arrogance in every teen is normal. When the arrogance becomes an issue that causes them to be reckless with the lives of others, then it becomes a problem. If your teen treats the process of learning to drive as if it’s not important, they may need a little more time to mature before they are ready to drive on their own. If your child makes cocky statements about their driving skills, or shows a complete lack of regard for the opinions of others, they are likely not ready to drive on their own.
4. Is there a reason for my child to drive? Do they need transportation to and from work or extracurricular activities?
If your child simply has no reason to drive, you may want to take a little extra time and work with them on their skills. As a parent, you are likely tired of running your kids to each place they must be. If your child works, they are more likely to need transportation at all times. The benefit of this is that teenagers who are able to keep a job are also more likely to be responsible about other things, such as driving.
Remember that teenagers will take better care of something they have had to earn than something that was given to them easily. If your child is forced to work hard to have the privilege of driving, they are more likely to treat that privilege as something special, and work hard to be better at it. Encourage your child to practice often with a responsible adult, and ask them to contribute to driving expenses. Driving is one way for your child to learn about making adult decisions, and you cheat them out of this learning experience if you make it too easy.
Call The Clark Law Office today to get your the best consultation on driving and law!
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