Talking to Your Teen Driver
For your teenager, turning 15 is a big deal (even if they don’t act like it). This is the year they can take a driver’s education course and apply for their driver’s permit. It’s the year you finally have to let them behind the wheel. As a parent, you probably aren’t ready. You’re wondering how your son or daughter got so old. You’re also probably terrified of the day they get their driver’s license and can go off without you. But, you also know this is a rite of passage for every teen. The best you can do is prepare to help your child become a safe and responsible teen driver.
Teen Drivers Face a High Risk of Accidents
Parents should not shy away from the truth in regard to teen drivers and accidents. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car accidents are the leading cause of death for teens between the ages of 16 and 19 years. In 2015, the CDC’s latest figures, 2,333 teens in the U.S. were killed in crashes and 235,845 were treated in emergency rooms for car accident injuries. If you have a son, you should know that young men are twice as likely as young women to pass away in a crash. Overall, your adolescent is at a much greater risk for being in a fatal car accident than drivers 20 years and older, and the risk is greatest in the first few months after a teen gets their license.
The good news is that teen car accidents are largely preventable. You can work with your teen driver to improve their chance of avoiding dangerous collisions. Here’s a guide on safety for Teen Drivers in Denver that can aide your discussions and practices.
Plan Ahead for Having a Teen Driver
When your teen is in high school, it is time to consider how and when they will get their driver’s license. Some of this is dictated by Colorado law. There are age, education, training, and testing requirements in place for when adolescents can obtain a driver’s permit and then a license. However, you should see these as minimum requirements for your son or daughter. You can set a higher threshold for the knowledge and skills they need to have before obtaining their license.
Get Comfortable in Your Driveway
The basics of learning to drive do not begin on the road – they begin in the vehicle. Have your child sit in the driver’s seat while you teach them the basics, including what every knob and lever does, how to properly wear a seatbelt, adjust the seat and steering wheel, adjust the mirrors, and understanding every light and number on the dashboard. Help your child learn the inside of the vehicle before they ever start the ignition.
Enhance Your Teen Driver’s Education
Colorado requires your child to take an education course. Review the courses in your area to choose the best one – the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) provides a list. Familiarize yourself with the contents of the class and consider adding to it. It may benefit you to brush up on Colorado’s Driver Handbook at this time. You may want your child to know more about vehicle mechanics and maintenance, such as checking the oil level, filling the fluids, and changing a tire.
We also compiled a Teen Driving Resource Center for you and your family to use.
Do Not Skimp on Driving Time
Once your son or daughter has their permit, it is up to you and the other adults in their life to take them out driving. This practice is absolutely essential for your child to learn safe driving skills and to be prepared for driving on their own. Start out slow and simple in an empty parking lot or calm neighborhood. Do not forget to practice basic skills, such as braking smoothly, turning both ways, and parking. Only increase your child’s exposure to traffic and the complexity of their drive when you believe they are ready. Colorado requires a minimum of 50 driving hours, 10 of those hours at night, before a teen can get their license. Yet the more practice your child has, the better.
Talk About Their Cellphone
Cellphones are a significant risk for teenagers. The 2016 National Occupant Protection Use Survey by the National Highway Traffic Administration found drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 were the most likely to hold a phone to their ear or visibly use a handheld device while driving. The CDC’s research also found that teens texted and emailed at a high rate while driving. You need to make it clear to your teen driver that their cell phone stays in the backpack or the glove compartment while they drive. Jennifer Donaldson has curated more information and resources on texting while driving that will be useful to know when having this discussion.
Be Clear About Your Expectations
You need to decide your expectations and requirements for your teen driver and then communicate them. Your teen probably knows Colorado’s basic rules for getting their permit and license. If you are going to demand more, let them know at the beginning of the process. For instance, if you want them to drive at least 75 hours, 20 of which are at night, let them know and devise the best way to track their driving time.
Set a Good Example
By the time your child is in high school, they are paying attention to what you do in the car. Since they are going to do what you do, not necessarily what you say, strive to show them a good example. Despite the temptation, drive the speed limit, wear your seat belt, and never use your phone.
Consider Bringing in Backup
Depending on your relationship with your teen driver, you two may butt heads a lot. If you have a difficult time teaching your child to drive without the session dissolving into an argument, tears, or the silent treatment, consider having another adult you trust take your child out driving sometimes. Your child may feel less pressure with another parent, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, or a good family friend.
The Restrictions Do Not End When Your Teen Has Their License
It may be frustrating to your teen driver, but the restrictions on their driving do not end once they get their driver’s license. Colorado uses a graduated licensing system, which means teen drivers have a number of restrictions at first, which slowly go away after they’ve been driver for a longer period of time.
For the first six months with their license, your teen cannot have any passengers under the age of 21 years old, unless a parent or other licensed adult is in the vehicle too. For the next six months, your teen may only have one passenger under 21 years old when they are driving unsupervised. However, siblings and medical emergencies are exceptions to these restrictions. Think of it this way, for the first six months, your child can only drive family members, not friends.
Just like with the requirements to obtain their permit and license, you may consider these minimum restrictions. As the parent, you have the right to restrict your child’s driving and passengers for a longer period of time.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Jennifer Donaldson is an experienced personal injury attorney in Denver, CO, who represents victims of auto collisions. As a personal injury attorney, she sees, first hand, the problems that can arise with young people driving in a negligent or careless manner. Prevent your child from being civilly or criminally liable for reckless or negligent driving by talking to them about the seriousness of safe driving. Call Law Office of Jennifer L. Donaldson at (303) 458-5000 now for more information about how distracted or careless driving on Colorado roadways can lead to criminal or civil liability.