Teen Driving: The Number One Rule of the Road is Safety First
If you’re the parent of a teen, you are most likely familiar with the anxiety associated with your child obtaining his or her license. Whether your child already has their license or is about to begin this process, you may be experiencing an overwhelming share of the anxiety. Or maybe you remember when you were first getting your license as a teen. Things may have changed since then, but as a parent, the concerns you have about your child getting on the road are probably feelings your parent had for you as well.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. In 2016, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that drivers between 16 and 20 have the highest rate of being involved in fatal car accidents per 100,000 licensed drivers.¹ These are alarming statistics. So, how do you help your teen to stay safe while enjoying their new-found freedom? Here is some information to bring awareness to issues related to teen driving and ways that help to facilitate the well-being of young people on the road.
Factors That Contribute to Teen Driving Accidents
New drivers, including teens, may engage in behaviors that lead to car accidents and fatalities. Using substances that interfere with reaction time such as alcohol or drugs, being distracted by cell phones or other teen passengers, drowsiness, late-night driving, infrequent use of seat belts and speeding are all risky behaviors that can result in a crash.
Getting a License in Missouri
Because of the statistics and concerns mentioned above, many states have established graduated driving laws that allow teens to get driving experience under certain restrictions before being granted a full license. This system of granting licenses to teen drivers has shown to decrease accidents involving teens. Missouri is one of the states that has a graduated driver’s license program. Three steps must be fulfilled to obtain a full driver’s license at age 21.²
Step 1: Instruction Permit – At age 15, a teen is eligible to receive an instructional permit to drive. The permit is valid for up to 12 months and may be renewed if needed. The young person must pass certain tests, including the Missouri written driver’s exam. As indicated above, certain restrictions to permit holders apply, such as requiring a licensed, qualified person to be in the front seat and having your permit on you when driving.
Step 2: Intermediate License – A teen is eligible to receive an intermediate license at age 16 – 18. The permit is valid for up to two years. The youth must pass specific tests, including the Missouri written and driving exam. The teen must have had the instruction permit for at least 182 days, have no alcohol-related offenses in the past 12 months, and have no traffic offenses in the last six months. There are also certain driving restrictions under the intermediate license.
Step 3: Under-21 Full Driver’s License – At age 18, a young person is eligible for an under-21 full driver’s license. The license is valid for up to three years. A teen must have an intermediate permit and no alcohol or traffic offenses within the last 12 months. Specific requirements must be satisfied to obtain the full driver’s license, such as passing certain tests. Also, driving privileges cannot be suspended, revoked, or denied at the time of application.
How to Protect New Teen Drivers
Besides graduated driving, many states have also developed specific programs targeted at keeping teens safe on the road. These programs help to bring awareness to teens and their parents about the dangerous behaviors that often put them at risk of being involved in an accident.
Traffic Safety Programs
Missouri’s traffic safety program, First Impact, educates parents and teens about Missouri’s graduated driver’s license law. It is a particularly useful tool for parents looking to encourage their child toward safe driving practices.³
Tips for Staying Safe on the Road
The bottom line is that you want your child to be safe on the road when he or she starts driving. Although the teen years are a time of increased independence for your child, the positive relationship you have with your child can go a long way towards influencing their behavior.
- Participate in a safe driving program – This could help increase your child’s awareness of the risks involved when driving and encourage them to speak up when in potentially dangerous situations.
- Talk about the potential dangers with your child – Having a conversation related to your concerns about accidents, injury and death may be difficult, but if done in a loving way, it will communicate care to your child.
- Be a good driving role model – After we have been driving for years, it is natural to act in ways that may not necessarily conform to the requirements of the law. However, if your child sees you texting while driving, your warnings about such behavior will have little meaning.
Sometimes no matter how safe you or your child is, another driver may do something that results in an accident. In the event that you or one of your family members is injured in an accident that is someone else’s fault, please give us a call. We would love to help!