There’s a common criticism about parents these days: they can’t help but hover over their children like helicopters (which is where the term “helicopter parents” comes from). For the most part, being too involved as a parent is not good for kids, because they need to learn to fight their own battles and to recover from their own failures.
But when it comes to teen driving, most parents actually need to be more involved. As a recent news article suggests, newly licensed drivers need a lot of parental oversight. They need to know that their parents are watching and scrutinizing their driving behaviors.
Why do parents need to be so involved? The simple and scary truth is that among 16 and 17-year-olds, car accidents are the No. 1 cause of death. As one researcher puts it, “If you’re going to have an early, untimely death, the most dangerous two years of your life are between 16 and 17, and the reason for that is driving.”
The vast majority of states, including Tennessee, have implemented graduated driver licensing programs. They place restrictions on new drivers, even after initial licensure. And these restrictions are not arbitrary. Instead, they address some of the most dangerous problems that teen drivers are likely to face.
In Tennessee, for instance, newly licensed 16-year-olds are prohibited from driving between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. to avoid the hazards of night driving. Even more importantly, they are limited to having just one non-family passenger in the car with them. One of the biggest distractions teen drivers face is other teens. Adding just one non-family passenger (usually a friend) can increase crash risk by up to 44 percent. The risk shoots up even higher as more passengers are added.
If you are the parent of a teen driver, please understand how important your role is in preventing a serious or fatal car accident. Even if your teen doesn’t like you being a helicopter parent when it comes to their driving, you can rest assured that their safety is well worth the annoyance.