Buckle up Mama: Teen Driving is a Bumpy Ride


Buckle up Mama: Teen Driving is a Bumpy RideWe all dread teaching our teens to drive, right? I am not the only one, am I? Buckle up, mama, teen driving is a bumpy ride.

When your teen turns 15, you think the hardest part is teaching them to drive, but then they turn 16 and they pass the driver’s test and suddenly you have to LET THEM DRIVE BY THEMSELVES.

We all want our kids to be independent, and driving — especially in Knoxville — comes with the territory. You spend a year in the passenger’s seat, telling them which way to go, to use the signal, to change lanes…YOU HAVE TO LOOK TO SEE IF IT IS CLEAR FIRST! (Yeah, I forgot to explain that the first time, my bad.) All of this is teaching them how to drive their car, but what we really need to be teaching is how to make safe driving decisions when we are not in the car with them. We need to teach them to watch out for other drivers more than anything else because as long as they can park the car, use signals, and remember to stop at stop signs and lights, they will pass the driver’s test. But that isn’t really teaching them how to navigate dangerous situations that can turn their lovely car into a death trap. That may sound dramatic, but it’s TRUE.

Driver’s education isn’t offered at most of the area schools. We chose to pay a hefty amount to send our teen to a safe driver’s school; there are a few in Knoxville and you can check them out for yourself. Driver’s education classes help us get a discount on our insurance and they did help her learn to drive. They do so many hours of classroom work and then six hours behind the wheel with an instructor. These classes are not unlike the driver’s ed that was offered in the schools, and definitely not enough to get them road-worthy, but a nice compliment to parent instruction. We thought our teen learned better from someone other than us, too.

Speaking of insurance, you don’t have to insure your permitted driver, but once they take the test and are licensed, insure them you must, and it ain’t cheap! Along with the driver’s school discount, we also get a good student discount, and a multi-car discount. Be prepared to pay double the average cost per adult (with a clean driving record) for your teen driver. Sorry those of you with multiples — start saving now!

There are lots of things that we just can’t teach.

You hope things come up with your teen as you spend that permit year driving with them. Things like a car, which is about to sideswipe them, changing lanes or a car running a red light, which is about to T-bone them. But there will be other things for which you can’t prepare them and you just hope they have quick reflexes and are calm under pressure. This all reminds me of the first time we left her home alone. You spend at least 12 years making sure they are never alone and then all of a sudden you just stop doing that. It was one of the hardest transitions for me to get used to; watching her leave in her car is the second hardest. Really looking forward to her leaving the nest. #holdme

Distracted driving is another thing about which we all have to worry. 2,500 people were killed in 2015 due to distracted driving, and 391,000 were injured (teensafe.com). Worse than that, eleven teens die every day as a result of texting and driving and one in four wrecks is caused by texting and driving (teensafe.com). You can drill it into their brains all you want, but one of the best ways to prevent your teen from picking up their phone while driving is for you to not pick up your phone while driving. That’s right; stop using your phone in the driver’s seat. Our kids learn from watching us, no matter what words we say to them. Modeling safe driving is the number one way to teach our kids — we lead by example.

Our family uses an app on all of our phones called Life360 that tells us our speed, when we arrived somewhere, if we had an event like a hard brake or if we picked up our phones. So not only can we see if she picked up her phone, but she can see if we did, even if she isn’t in the car with us.

When my teen is out driving and I see her number come up on my phone, my heart instantly sinks and I feel the “fight or flight” reaction start to kick in. Maybe that will get better with time — I hope so. In the meantime, I find comfort knowing that we have prepared her as best we could, that she is a rule follower and a great kid. And when I feel myself start to worry, I say a little prayer and find comfort knowing she’s never really alone.



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