What to Discuss with Your Teen Driver Before You Head to the DMV

Think back on your teenage years when you excitedly (and nervously) prepared for your driving test. Perhaps you studied harder for the driving exam than any other test you took in high school. Those hours of study ensured that you walked out of the DMV with a license in hand and the freedom to drive around town without parental supervision.

Now you have a teenager approaching that milestone. Suddenly, you understand your parents’ reluctance to hand you the keys to the family car. The key to navigating this rite of passage is open communication and an agreed-upon set of rules. Before you take your teen to the DMV to get a learner’s permit, sit down for a frank discussion about your house’s driving rules.

Review Colorado’s Teen Driver Laws

Statistics show that teen drivers are more likely to be in an accident than older, more experienced drivers. In fact, the CDC reports (http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/teendrivers_factsheet.html) that more US teens die from car crashes than any other cause. Teens are especially prone to accidents when they are driving at night or while distracted.
These grim statistics concerned Colorado residents, so the state passed extra driving rules that apply to teen drivers. Intended to keep young drivers safe, these laws:
• Make seatbelt use mandatory for the driver and all passengers.
• Prohibit any cell phone use while driving, including texting and talking.
• Establish a curfew. Teens aren’t allowed to drive between midnight and 5 a.m. without a parent or other legally responsible adult in the car.
• Set limits on the age and number of passengers allowed in the vehicle during the first year of driving. (There are some exceptions if family members are in the car.)
Though your teen might be familiar with some of these rules, you should still take the time to review them carefully one-on-one. You can also set a good example by following applicable rules when you drive. Always wear your seatbelt, and limit cell phone use when you’re behind the wheel.
Agree When You Can Withdraw Driving Privileges
Some teenagers feel that a license in their wallet entitles them to drive wherever and whenever they want. You can avoid this mentality by making it clear that driving is a privilege in your house. If you attach penalties or rewards to driving, your teen is more likely to recognize that driving involves responsibility. The more they know about this responsibility, the more they will respect it while operating a vehicle.
As a parent, you have the right to take away your teen’s driving privileges if they don’t follow the rules. To ensure fairness, involve your teen in establishing the ground rules. Teens who help parents establish driving rules have a stronger incentive to abide by those rules.
Here’s an example of how you can motivate your teen to abide by driving rules: Imagine you and your teen agree that you’ll pay the extra car insurance premium for a teen driver as long as your teen remains eligible for a good student discount. If your daughter’s grades then drop after she gets her license, she must either pay the extra amount or lose driving privileges until she pulls her grades back up.

Determine How to Track Your Teen’s Driving Behavior

After you discuss state laws and family rules, you might still have concerns about your teen’s behavior behind the wheel. With your teen’s permission, you can enlist the help of some electronic allies to track their driving habits.
You can install various apps on your teen’s smartphone to monitor different driving behaviors. These apps are divided in two primary categories:
• Driving watchdogs. Apps in this category keep track of top speeds, excessive braking, and driving time. Some even send parents text alerts when the driver violates a speed limit.
• Distraction minimizers. These apps use a variety of methods to discourage teens (or any driver) from checking cell phone alerts while driving. Some disable the phone from functioning when it senses movement faster than 5 miles per hour.
Others read the alerts aloud so drivers don’t have to take their eyes off the road.
It’s usually worth paying for the full version of any driving app so you use all of its features. Test out the free versions on your phone first, and check reviews before you settle on your favorites.
It’s important to discuss smartphone driving apps with teens so they don’t feel like you are invading their privacy. If your teen isn’t too ecstatic about the idea, try to agree on some rewards your teen can receive after driving safely for a set amount of time.

Drive to the DMV

Once you discuss these topics with your teen, it’s time to head to the DMV. You’ll feel safer about your teen getting behind the wheel once you’ve established the ground rules. Even when they follow driving rules perfectly, teens still need extra protection as new drivers. Remember to call your auto insurance agent and add your teen driver to your policy.