It’s that time of the year again. School opens this week. For seniors, it’s supposed be the best year of their young lives. 12th Grade marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another. Educationally speaking, this is the year that will determine what they do after graduation. Do they get accepted into that college or university they have been dreaming of? Or are there other options that they may be considering? Such as entering into the labor market or possibly the military? Whatever direction they choose, these High School upperclassmen have to be prepared for the challenges that lie ahead.
For most 17 and 18-year-old seniors they now possess Provisional Driver’s Licenses and they will be driving themselves to school for the very first time. The bell for the first class may ring at 8:30 am but the first test begins the moment your child puts your car into gear and backs out of your driveway. For parents, get ready for many very stress filled late night hours, now that you have a teen driver in your household.
Teen drivers learn to drive from a variety of sources; a parent, school taught driver education classes or commercially run driving schools. Your child will be taught how to properly and safely operate a motor vehicle. They will take and pass their state road test and they will become licensed New Jersey Drivers. They will start off with a provisional driver’s license that has restrictions such as; how many passengers can be in the car and times of lawful operation. Now that they have been taught, how much will they retain and will they actually drive defensively and always keep safety as a priority?
When it comes to new teen drivers…Insurance Companies don’t think your kids will retain that much. Adding a new driver to your policy will almost certainly cause a significant increase in your insurance premium. Now, any good insurance agent will help you through the process but even really good deals are still very expensive for young drivers especially in the State of New Jersey.
Unfortunately in our society some teenagers operate under the false impression that they’re invincible and that their mistakes behind the wheel will not cost them theirs or anybody else’s lives. They are dead wrong. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. Car crashes are the number one cause of teen deaths in the United States of America. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 are four more times likely to die in a car crash than drivers between the ages of 25 and 69. Teen drivers were involved in 63% of teen passenger deaths and 19% of passenger deaths of all ages in fatal accidents.
For driving safety tips for teens, there are pamphlets, brochures, classes, public safety announcements, billboards, websites, educational films and Local Law Enforcement who will come to your high school and give presentations on the dangers and challenges of being a new driver. These are all good methods and very informative and educational and they do save lives.
However, the most effective way to keep your child safe behind the wheel is for you as a parent to closely monitor your child’s driving skills and make immediate corrections, even if it means taking the keys and their license for a period of time until you are comfortable with your child’s skill level. Here are a few tips for parents to help alleviate some of that stress when you see your child drive away alone in your car for the first time.
Your child has to understand is that driving is an absolute privilege not an absolute right. And as a parent you reserve the right to revoke that privilege at anytime at your discretion for any reason, whether if it’s for safety or disciplinary reasons. Your house… your rules.
Independence. Having the privilege to operate a motor vehicle gives us all tremendous independence. However, everything has a cost. If your child wants to drive, they should fully understand the cost of this privilege and share some of the expense by trying to fit a part time job into their busy schedules. Gasoline on the average is approximately $65 per fill-up.
Ensure that your child fully understands the constraints of their Provisional License. These provisions are safety oriented and they are in place to help save young driver’s lives not to curtail their good times.
Bring your child to your local Municipal Court and sit in on a court sessions. You would be amazed how much money some of these tickets cost, along with court fees and the expense of a lawyer and in some situations the possibility of jail time. Municipal Court is open to the public and it is something I always felt all new drivers should have to attend as observers, which is much better than attending as a defendant.
Safe motor vehicles; ensure your child is operating a safe motor vehicle that meets the latest crash standards including airbags, anti-lock brakes and quality tires. If you are going to provide your 17-year-old with a high performance vehicle don’t be surprised when he operates it that way and certainly don’t be surprised with the motor vehicle summonses that will soon follow.
Be aware of the weather. It would be preferable if a young driver gets experience in driving in bad weather with a parent sitting in the passenger seat. If your child is driving to school and the forecast is for snow or ice later in the day, it certainly would not be a good idea to let them drive that day unless you want to let them drive to school with you and then bring the car back and let them drive home.
Practice what you preach. When you are operating a motor vehicle, make sure you are driving defensively, that your vehicle is in proper working order and that you always wear your seatbelt and of course never drink and drive.
Watching our children transform into young adults with the whole world in front of them is certainly a proud time for parents but it is equally stressful. As they enter into new phases in their respective lives more and more challenges present themselves. Getting a driver’s licenses is one of those challenges. It is a milestone in our children’s lives and should be viewed as a tool to make their lives more successful and convenient. However, without due caution and proper parental supervision too many of our teens each year nationwide never get to fulfill the dreams of their youth and the hopes of their parents.
John-Paul Beebe, Sergeant/Public Affairs Officer with the Sparta Police Department, is 52 years old, has been a resident of Sparta Township for 45 years, and has served on the department for the past 24 years. He lives in Sparta with wife Brenda, 13-year-old son Dylan, and daughters Jenna, age 10, and Gracie, age 8.
Prior to being a Police Officer, Beebe served five years in the United Sates Coast Guard, as Public Affairs Specialist Petty Officer 3rd Class.
Beebe is a graduate of the Rev George A. Brown Memorial School, Pope John XXIII Regional High School Class of 79, and attended Seton Hall University.
He is a Journalism and Photo Journalism graduate of the Defense Information School, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Beebe is the former Assistant Football, Basketball and Track Coach at Pope John XXIII Regional High School. Currently Football Coach and Board Member of Sparta Little League Football.