As your teen approaches their 15th birthday, they have an exciting opportunity – the ability to get their learner’s permit. The Florida learner’s permit allows residents to start the journey toward driving – and freedom! However, in the immortal words of Uncle Ben from Spiderman (say it with us), “With great power comes great responsibility.”
You have probably already started to worry about your teenager getting behind the wheel. After all, motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teens in America. Distracting phones, friends, and reckless drivers on the road can take a person’s life in an instant. Additionally, while poor drivers can be found in every single age bracket, younger drivers tend to be especially risky.
Is your teenager really ready to take on the responsibility of driving safely?
It’s a question that every parent has to answer for themselves, but there are signs you can look for to help you decide. If your teenager displays the following, they are likely ready to get their permit. If not, you might want to wait a year (or two) before letting them get behind the wheel.
Here are some signs your teenager is ready to drive:
Self-Control (Especially with Their Phone)
The National Safety Council reports that over 3,000 people are killed in the United States due to a distracted driver every year. One of the biggest distractions is cell phones – responding to a text can instantly become a life-or-death situation when behind the wheel. Can your teenager put away their phone while they drive?
If your teenager is too addicted to their phone, they may not be able to resist turning it off while they drive. Not only is texting while driving dangerous, it could also get them in trouble with the law. If you constantly have to take your teen’s phone away or have a hard time communicating with them due to their phone usage, it may be best not to hand over the keys.
The rules of being a safe driver often apply to passengers as well. The next time you drive your teenager somewhere, take a look at how they behave and stay safe.
Did they buckle up? Do they take on the role of navigator so that you can drive without distractions? On the other hand, did they tell you to speed up at any point? Did they distract you? Did they turn the music all the way up and focus more on the lyrics than road signs?
If a teenager takes their position in the car seriously, they may be ready to get behind the wheel.
Adherence to House Rules
There are a lot of rules on the road: speed limits, giving pedestrians and certain cars the right of way, curfews for young drivers, and so on. If your teen does not follow these rules, they could get pulled over and ticketed. (Or worse, they could cause an accident and hurt themselves or others.)
Teenagers who are ready to drive are those who can be trusted with these rules – but how do you know this until they get behind the wheel? One sign is their attitude toward rules in general. Does your teenager tend to obey rules given to them by authority figures, or do you catch them breaking rules often? If they don’t obey the rules at home, they most likely won’t obey the rules of the road.
Knowledge of “Safe” Driving
Have a conversation with your teenager about what it means to be a “safe” driver. Not just a “good” driver, but a safe one.
Leave the conversation open to see what your teenager thinks. If they mention the ability to follow the rules and stay alert, they are probably ready to start practicing.
Trust your instincts. If you talk to your teenager and feel that they need to mature before they get behind the wheel, hold back and give them a few months before they get their permit. (Or enroll them in a driver’s education course.)
Remember – unsafe driving could cost your teenager their life. Listen to your gut and only allow them to start driving when you feel confident in their ability to stay safe.
Jeffrey Braxton is a trial lawyer in Fort Lauderdale who has devoted his career to the practice of personal injury law. As lead trial attorney for the South Florida Injury Law Firm, Jeff has litigated thousands of cases and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, an exclusive group of attorneys who have resolved cases in excess of one million dollars.
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