Getting a driver’s license has long been a rite of passage for teenagers, but the minimum age for an unrestricted license is gradually creeping up in some states. According to the "CQ Researcher," teens are involved in more automobile accidents than those in any other age group, and car accidents account for 40 percent of teen fatalities. As a result, some institutions, including the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, want the driving age for teens to be raised to 17 or even 18. Even with the statistics, though, many people consider driving an important part of teen life.
According to developmental theorist Erik Erikson, the central role in a teen’s development is his search for identity. Teenagers need space to break away from parents, spend time with peers and develop individual morals and values. While some major metropolitan areas have excellent public transportation, many cities and most small towns do not. Without the ability to drive, many teens would find it difficult or impossible to do things independently.
Many teenagers lead busy lives packed with sports, volunteer work, paid jobs and hobbies. Many parents are also highly scheduled, putting in long hours at work and juggling other responsibilities. Teens with driver’s licenses are able to manage their own schedules, driving themselves between activities. They can also take some of the pressure off parents by driving younger children around, grocery shopping and running errands.
A teenager becomes a legal adult at 18 in the U.S., but the birthday does not automatically confer wisdom or maturity. Experts on both sides of the teen-driving debate agree that behind-the-wheel practice is the leading factor that reduces driving crashes. This was at the heart of the graduated driving laws enacted by most states during the late 1990s and early 2000s, according to the "CQ Researcher." Allowing your teen to practice driving while living at home ensures that he has valuable on-the-road experiences by the time he leaves for college or to pursue other life experiences outside of the home.
Parents retain a significant amount of influence over their teenagers, but it is harder to wield that influence after kids leave home. Take every opportunity to ride along when your teenager is driving, and use that time to encourage healthy habits. Draw up a driving contract that specifies your teen’s responsibilities and the consequences for breaking the rules, suggests the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Good habits must be learned, and they are easier to teach while your child is still under your roof.
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