Our youngest turned 16 this year and before too long, she’ll be driving. We already have a used car parked in our driveway that will be getting a tune up, new tires and a full inspection. We didn’t pay much for it and I wouldn’t trust it on long trips, but it will become her transportation to get her to school and to work and back. And each day she leaves the driveway, my wife and I will cross our fingers and say a few prayers, even though she has older brothers who set out on this same journey ahead of her.
One reason for our parental worry is what we learned from a recent guest who appeared on my parenting television show at the Enfield Cox studios. Tim Hollister of Connecticut lost his 17-year-old son Reid in a driving accident in 2006. Since that tragic incident, Mr. Hollister wrote the book “Not So Fast: Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving.” Visit Mr. Hollister’s Website, http://www.FromReidsDad.org.
As the national authority and spokesperson for safer teen driving, Tim Hollister will tell you that he thought he had everything covered as far as training and coaching his son when it came to driving skills. The two most important things that Tim shared with me in the interview: avoid allowing your teen to take passengers and discourage joyriding. The reason is that in the first year of your teen’s driving experience, driving without intention and for just the joy of driving around increases the dangers to your teen. In his book, he offers parents the following tips for coaching your teen through the first few years of driving:
DON’T BE BLIND TO THE DANGERS
All too often, parents find it difficult to accept the fact that their teen could be at risk. They suffer from the ‘halo effect’ in a sense and believe that, “It couldn’t happen to my child, she’s a very safe driver.” Keep your child safe by accepting that the dangers exist and establish rules and boundaries around the privilege of driving.
ENGAGE EVERYTIME YOUR TEEN DRIVES AWAY
Mr. Hollister advises parents to know where their teen is headed, what route he is taking, the current traffic and weather conditions, his mental state, the return trip, if there are passengers, and more. It’s a fact that teenagers do not have the cognitive capacity to take all of these preparations into consideration, but the parent does.
THE TEEN DRIVING AGREEMENT
Every parent should draft an agreement that clearly states the dangers, and lists rules and consequences of the violation of those rules. But its primary purpose is to initiate calm and productive conversations about driving, conduct and expectations. It should also be signed and reviewed regularly to keep the important content in the forefront of the teen’s conscious thinking.