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To many new drivers, a license means freedom. Freedom from planning around other people’s schedules and from waiting for someone to pick you up. Many parents may feel the same way: freedom from picking up and dropping off their busy teens.
But the freedom that a license brings can be a slippery slope. Car crashes, after all, are the No. 1 killer of teens, and that risk only goes up once your teen gets a license. Unfortunately, this isn’t obvious to everyone.
Plenty of parents think that a license means their teen no longer needs their help; that because their teen can legally drive alone, their job as a driving coach is over. The facts disagree, but if you’re still unconvinced, think back to a lesson from a book you used to read to your child long before you ever imagined them getting behind the wheel: If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.
If you give a teen a license
If you recall, the rodent at the center of this story turns every favor or opportunity into another task for its owner. A cookie becomes a glass of milk. A glass of milk becomes a mirror (to check for a milk mustache) and so on.
Well, a similar problem comes up once your teen gets a license. In this case, the story goes: ‘If you give a teen a license, they’re going to want to drive.’ From here, there could be many versions of this story:
‘If your teen goes out driving, they’ll want to use their phone. And if your teen uses their phone, they’re going to be distracted.’
Or maybe: ‘If your teen goes out driving, they’ll want to ride with friends. And if your teen rides with friends, they’re going to take chances.’
Or even: ‘If your teen goes out driving, they’ll want to stay out late. And if your teen stays out late, they’re three times as likely to be in a fatal crash.’
A different ending
No matter how the story goes, getting a license puts your teen at higher risk. This is primarily due to their inexperience, because they don’t fully understand the risks of driving and can’t appropriately respond to every road hazard. In the book, the problem never really ends, it only cycles over and over. But when it comes to our kids, we cannot accept this as a solution.
In reality, parents are the answer. Yes, if you give a teen a license, their crash risks go up. But if you stay involved, you can help keep your teen driver safe. We’ve got resources to make this easier.
Use our Pointers for Parents to get ideas for new driving lessons you can review with your teen, even after they get a license. And fill out our New Driver Deal together so both you and your teen agree on the rules and boundaries for driving.
Most of all, continue to talk with your teen and always set a good example behind the wheel. Though you might think your teen has long since stopped learning from you, you are still the No. 1 influence on your teen’s driving habits. So even if they have turned the page on this chapter and gotten a license, remember they still need your guidance to become a good, safe driver.
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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