Signs your teenager isn’t ready to drive unsupervised
Just because they passed the test doesn’t always mean teen drivers are ready to take on the open road.
In fact, many state laws place limitations on newly licensed drivers under the age of 18. And for good reason: young, inexperienced teen drivers are the age group most likely to be in a car crash.
Pennsylvania Teen Driver Laws
In Pennsylvania, the law prohibits junior license holders from driving between 11 pm and 5 am hours without a parent or guardian (fatal nighttime crash rates for new drivers are double the rate of daytime fatalities). And, during the first 6 months of holding a junior driver’s license, a teen may not drive with more than 1 unrelated passenger under age 18, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. After the first 6 months, teens may not drive with more than three unrelated passengers, without a parent or guardian.
At age 17 and 6 months, teens are eligible for a full unrestricted license if they have held a junior license for 12 months, remained crash- and conviction-free, and have taken a certified driver education course. Without any drivers’ ed, teens can get an unrestricted license at age 18.
However, an unrestricted license doesn’t mean your teen’s driving training is complete. It’s important to continue to supervise, coach, and guide your teenager as they drive more independently.
Signs Your Teenager Isn’t Ready to Drive Unsupervised
Each new driver is different. It may take your teen longer than the legally allotted amount of time to get comfortable behind the wheel and develop good driving habits. Here are some signs that your teenager needs some more guided practice before going solo:
- Distraction. If your teenager calls or texts you while they’re driving, it’s a bad sign. Driving is a complex cognitive and physical activity that requires 100% of your attention, especially for new drivers. Checking their phone, eating, changing the music, or talking incessantly while driving are all forms of distraction that can turn deadly. Teach your teenager that there is no such thing as multi-tasking while driving a car, and set a good example by putting your phone away when you drive, too.
- Drugs or alcohol. If your teen is drinking or doing drugs, the last thing they should be doing is getting behind the wheel of a car. Make sure your teenager knows to call you for a ride if they are with other kids who are drinking and need a safe way to get home.
- Not wearing a seat belt. If you still have to remind your teenager to buckle up, they haven’t grasped the seriousness of a possible accident.
- Close calls and fender-benders. When learning to drive, everyone makes mistakes. Hopefully, those mistakes will be minor, and no one will end up hurt. But if your teen has added one too many dings and scratches to the car, or been in multiple accidents, it may be time to scale back their driving privileges until they’ve had more practice. Even if they’ve had a few too many “almost accidents,” it’s likely a sign that safe habits, like looking before merging or signaling before switching lanes, haven’t developed yet.
Learning to drive is probably the biggest responsibility your child has ever had. It’s a complex skill that takes time to get right. Make sure your new driver knows that logging more hours of driving with you along to guide them is not a punishment. It’s just part of the training process. And if you think that your presence doesn’t make a difference, consider this: the risk of a teen being killed in a crash falls by more than 60% when an adult over age 35 is in the car.
If your teen was involved in a car accident, we can help. Contact our Scranton car accident lawyer today to schedule a free consultation.
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