What You Can Do to Keep Your Teen Safe While They Are on the Road
This article is written for you, Mom and Dad. It's purpose is to help you prevent what is often a thoroughly preventable teen driving crash. Let's first look at what parents often misunderstand about teen driving, starting with the laws that exist to protect your teen.
Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) Laws
GDL laws are now in effect in every state in the country. They are designed to prohibit the most risk-laden driving situations for novice drivers, allowing them to gain experience and gradually be exposed to greater risk as they learn.
Allstate Insurance's "Under Your Influence" survey of 1,000 parents is published at this web site, with the kind permission of Allstate. You can find it here in its entirety. The survey results are shocking because they show how little parents know about teen driving risks...and how parents fail to take the actions needed to prevent crashes.
For example, the survey shows less than one third of parents believe teens are good drivers. Yet nearly nine in 10 parents say that their own teen can drive safely. This "not my teen syndrome" gives parents a false sense of security as parents embark on what may be the most dangerous phase of child-rearing.
When it comes to understanding laws associated with novice drivers, Allstate reports that 93 percent of parents believe they can teach their kids to drive, yet three in five have never heard of, or are only vaguely familiar with, Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws. Most parents, unaware of GDL laws -- which are designed to minimize a novice driver's exposure to the highest risk driving situations -- allow the exact behaviors that the laws are designed to prohibit. In simple language, ignorance of the laws puts young drivers at risk!
For example, nine in ten parents will allow their teens to drive after dark, even though crash rates skyrocket after 9PM; 77 percent allow teens to drive or ride with other teens in the car, which multiplies crash risk by up to 500 percent. Some 70 percent allow their teens to drive in bad weather even without having had experience on slippery, wet or icy roads.
You can immediately get up to speed on GDL by opening this document (PDF format) provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.iihs.org. It shows you, at a high level, what the laws are in your state. Let's take a moment to review.
The Learner's Permit Phase
GDL in most states require youngsters to begin with a Learner's Permit, usually at age 15 or 16. This level of licensing must be held for a specific length of time, the "Mandatory Holding Period," usually six months. Why? Because during the Learner's period, teens are learning to drive. That's why parents are required by law to drive with their teens for a specific number of daytime and nighttime hours -- usually 30 to 50. Many states require parents or guardians to submit an affidavit certifying that they and their teen have, in fact, done that practice driving.
What goes wrong here? Sadly, in many cases parents put their teens into a driver's ed school and assume that they will learn enough to drive safely. A great deal of research has shown that conventional driver's ed classes, consisting of 30 hours of classroom time and just six hours behind the wheel, do not result in safe driving. That's counter-intuitive, but true. Researchers find that driver's ed has the overall effect of putting more drivers on the road at an earlier age, causing more crashes than if those youngest drivers were not driving. So on a macro level, driver's ed is actually a contributor to crashes!
That may be even harder to believe when you realize that most insurance companies offer premium discounts for teens who complete driver's ed. Why would they do that when driver's ed doesn't reduce crash rates? (Actually, Allstate was the first carrier to offer discounts to students who completed driver's ed -- in 1952. That was long before the problems with driver's ed were known. Now, after 50+ years, this discount has become a "must give" for carriers who want to remain competitive -- or so we believe.)
If you want to read some of the research on driver's ed, you'll find it here. (This documents a landmark study held in DeKalb County, Georgia, during the 1970's that showed the ineffectiveness of driver's ed in reducing crashes...which eventually led the Federal government to withdraw funding for highschool-based driver training programs. That's why parents growing up in the 60's and 70's can remember taking driver's ed in highschool...but those coming later had to find it at a private training school.)
What else goes wrong at the Learner's level? Sadly again, parents sometimes don't actually spend the amount of time required by law practicing driving with their teen. They assume that their teen is "doing OK" behind the wheel and just don't finish their job.
Reprinted with the permission of the Safe Teen Driving Club. © 2008 Safe Teen Driving Club, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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