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Teaching Your Teenager To Drive: A Natural Extension Of Homeschooling

Your teenager’s itching to get his driver’s license, but you’re probably experiencing a mix of feelings. On the one hand, having another driver around to run errands is appealing. You’re looking forward to hanging up your chauffeur’s hat. On the other hand, you may also feel confusion over driver’s license laws or worry about rising insurance rates. You’ve probably also heard the dire statistics: car accidents are the number one cause of death for teens age sixteen to nineteen. In 2010, 2,700 teenagers died in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and more than 280,000 kids were hospitalized for injuries sustained in car accidents.

Fortunately, as a homeschooling parent, you have an edge in keeping your teen driver safe. You’re already accustomed to taking charge of your child’s education. You know your child’s strengths and weaknesses and have learned to accommodate them. These same skills can help you teach your teen to drive.

Understanding The Risk Factors

As you teach your child to drive, it’s important to understand the risk factors so you can set appropriate boundaries and rules. Below are some of the most common problems associated with teen drivers:

  • Boys are twice as likely as girls to get in a car accident, according to the CDC.
  • When unsupervised teens drive with teen passengers, they’re much more likely to get in an accident, for obvious reasons. They’re talking, laughing, eating, and listening to music—all while trying to drive. Additionally, teens are more likely to speed or engage in other risk-taking behaviors when their friends are in the car.
  • Newly licensed drivers are most likely to get in an accident, simply because they lack experience.
  • Driving after nine at night increases a teen’s risk of an accident three-fold. Night driving is more difficult than driving during the day, and teens often underestimate driving risks. At night, teens are more likely to be with friends, as well. Weekends are particularly risky. In 2010, 55 percent of fatal traffic accidents involving teens happened on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
  • Teens are less likely to wear seat belts than other groups.

Understanding Your State’s Driver’s Education Requirements

The first step in teaching your child to drive is to get a handle on your state’s laws. Some states offer driver’s ed as part of public education. Others leave driver’s education up to parents, who can opt to pay for private driver’s education programs or sign up for a parent-taught class.

Many states offer a variety of options. For example, in Colorado, teens who participate in private driver’s education can get a learner’s permit at age fifteen. Teens who are taught by parents wait until they are fifteen and a half. Contact your state’s division of motor vehicles to learn the driver’s ed rules for your area.

As a parent, you might be wondering how exactly to teach your child to drive. You may worry that you don’t remember all the traffic laws. After all, it’s probably been twenty years or more since you learned to drive. And frankly, getting in a car with a young driver isn’t exactly a picnic. You may find yourself clutching at the passenger side door handles or drilling a hole into the floorboard with your foot as you try to press the non-existent brake pedal.

First, relax. You are the best person to teach your teen to drive because you know her best, love her the most, and are 100 percent dedicated to her well-being. However, just as you learn homeschooling subjects with your kids, you’ll probably need to relearn some driving skills and strategies before you can effectively teach them.

Several organizations, such as the National Drivers Training Institute, offer parent-led driving courses. Sign up for an online course for both you and your child. As you go through the work together, you’ll learn about new traffic laws and gain confidence in your ability to teach your child.

After you’ve completed the off-the-road training, it’s time to start logging miles. Go to an empty parking lot for your first driving experiences. If you live on a farm or in a rural area, your teen has probably been driving some sort of mechanized vehicle for a while, so this step may not be necessary.

Start by driving during the daytime in your neighborhood and community. Save urban and freeway driving for later when your teen has more experience.

State Driver’s License Laws

The first thing to know is that almost every state now has some sort of graduated driver licensing law, which simply means that teens go from a restricted learning period, during which time they must have an adult driver with them, to increased freedom over time. Rural, agricultural states typically have the fewest regulations. For example, in Arkansas, teens can get a license at age fourteen and are not required to log any supervised driving time with an adult. Most states allow teens to get a learner’s permit between the ages of fifteen and sixteen, and require at least six months of supervised driving time with a minimum of fifty logged hours.

Most states also have laws about how many passengers a teen driver can carry, as well as curfew restrictions. These laws have been shown to significantly reduce teen driver fatalities, but they only work if parents understand and enforce them.

Talk with your teen about state driver’s license laws and set up appropriate boundaries and expectations. In the beginning, your teen driver should stay close to home and avoid busy roads. Regardless of state laws, as a parent, you know your child best. If you think your teen isn’t ready for a driver’s license, stick with a learner’s permit for a few more months.

Some families opt to postpone driving until later for many reasons. Worries about safety, insurance costs, and a lack of a vehicle are all common reasons. No matter when your teen starts driving, you’ll have the skills to teach him.

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