Teaching a teen to drive is not for the faint of heart. There is, however, some good news for Chicago parents who are getting behind the wheel with their teens. Illinois is the fourth safest state for teen drivers, according to 2018’s Best & Worst States for Teen Drivers, a recent study from WalletHub.
You’ll want to make friends with the Secretary of State’s website, specifically this section on teen drivers. In addition to that, here are a few tips to help you.
Model safe driving early.
Even if your kids are a few years away from driving, they are watching you. Seeing you model good habits and make safe choices establishes a strong foundation for when it’s their turn to take the wheel.
You can also provide a bit of narration about what you’re doing and why when driving. For example, explain that you’re slowing down because you see a yellow light and note when it’s helpful that the car in front of you used their turn signal (or why it was problematic when they failed to do so). Make sure they see you putting your phone away before starting the car. (More on that below.)
Know the timing of getting a permit and license.
The first step is getting a learner’s permit. Kids can get a permit at age 15 if they enrolled in an approved driver’s education course. Teens need to have their permit for at least 9 months before they can get their license. That means that depending on when their driver’s ed class starts, they may not be able to get their license right when they turn 16. Discuss timing and set your teen’s expectations.
Once they have their permit, give your car insurance company a heads up that there is a new permitted driver in your family. While it didn’t impact my rates, my insurance company did want to know and it only took a few minutes to make the phone call.
Practice, practice, practice.
Teens not only must complete the Driver’s Ed class and driving with their instructor, they also need to log an additional 50 hours of practice time before getting their license. Ten of those hours must be done at night. It may seem like a lot, but over nine months, it’s not so bad. Look at it as some quality time with your kid.
That said, my daughter’s Driver’s Ed teacher recommended driving for only 20 to 30 minutes at a time, especially at first. They get a little fried after that amount of time behind the wheel. (And let’s be honest, parents are fried well before that point.)
You are more than welcome to put in more hours with them. The more they drive and the more practice they get, the better drivers they will be.
Know the restrictions that go with the graduated driver license.
The rules of the road may be the same, but the rules about teen drivers have changed since we were kids. The days of getting your license and immediately driving around to pick up a carload of friends are over, at least in Illinois, where teens get a graduated driver license. There are restrictions on the number of people to whom they are not related who can be in the car.
Don’t text and drive – even at a stoplight – and don’t text someone you know is driving.
We have all heard how important it is to not text and drive. But we also need to think about not texting people who we know may be driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 20 percent of distracted drivers ages 15 to 19 involved in fatal crashes were distracted by cell phones.
The primary reasons teens are using their phones while driving or when they are stopped at red lights are to respond to or contact their parents, according to a new Liberty Mutual Insurance study. If you know your kid is driving, do not text them. And remind them that they don’t have to respond immediately and should not do so until they’ve arrived at their destination.
Stress to teens (and remind yourself) that red lights and stop signs are not okay places to check phones. The Liberty Mutual study found that almost half of teens thought doing so was acceptable. It’s not, and they can be cited for doing so. You can find some ideas for helping teens resist their phone on Driversed.com.
Review being a good passenger.
While phones are a big part of the distracted driving problem, teens are also often distracted by their passengers. In fact, AAA found that the most common form of distraction leading up to a crash by a teen driver was interacting with one or more passengers.
Make sure that kids know being a good passenger means not interfering with the driver or taking the driver’s attention away from the road. Don’t ask them to do something for Snapchat or an Instagram story. Don’t be making so much noise they can’t hear sirens. Don’t be a distraction.