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For many parents, a teen’s driving license is a convenience to work toward. After all, once your teen can drive unsupervised, you can spend less time shuttling people around and your new driver can help run errands, right?
Except with this point of view, you assume your teen becomes a great, safe driver the second he or she receives a license, which we know isn’t true (plenty of adults who have had licenses for years could still use some guidance in safe driving).
So while your teen’s license may give him or her a, well, license to drive alone, that doesn’t mean your job is over.
It might sound ridiculous that your teen who passed a driving test isn’t yet road-ready, but consider this: if your teen lived in, say, Colorado, would he or she need more driving practice than a teen in Arkansas in order to stay safe? No, right? The same driving risks can apply on any road, but according to those states’ teen driving laws, the teen in Colorado needs at least 50 practice hours before getting a license, while the teen in Arkansas doesn’t need any.
Your state has its own number of required supervised driving hours. Maybe your teen needs 20 documented hours. Maybe it’s 60, with at least 10 being at night. Our nation’s graduated licensing laws (GDL) vary by state, but no matter what your state requires, you should plan to go above and beyond. Inexperience is the biggest danger for new drivers, so practicing more than you’re required to can only help. Check out your state’s teen driving laws and requirements.
So what’s the magic number? There isn’t one. Every driver’s skills will develop at a different rate, so you should stay involved even after your teen gets a license and help him or her continue to gain the experience, knowledge and confidence needed to stay safe behind the wheel. You’ll have to be the judge for when your teen has mastered one skill but needs work on another. Fortunately, the more you practice, the easier it’ll be to notice these changes.
Our New Driver Deal can help you and your teen agree on the household rules and expectations once your teen starts driving, and our Pointers for Parents can give you ideas for new lessons so you can practice with your teen while they have their permit and even once they are licensed to drive alone. You should know your teen better than anyone, so do your best to help him or her become the driver we’d all want to share a road with.
DriveitHOME™ is an initiative of the National Safety Council, designed by and for parents of newly licensed teen drivers. DriveitHOME™ offers free resources parents can use to help their teen build experience to become safer drivers.
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