When teenagers first get their driver’s license, they’re typically excited to hop into the car every chance they get. Some teens even gain a sudden enthusiasm for running errands, just because they love the independence it brings them. In truth, this can be great for parents too, because you finally have someone else who can help with trips to the store, picking up dry cleaning, and other time-consuming jobs. Still, as we’ve often seen at Children’s Wellness Center, parents are much more hesitant to award the school commute to their teenagers when the new driver would be taking their siblings to school as well. So what’s the verdict? Is it okay to have your teenager drive his/her younger siblings to school?
As you can probably imagine, there is no clear-cut answer about how much driving experience a teenager should have before they’re comfortable enough behind the wheel to take on the added responsibility of young passengers. It’s really a question of each teen’s maturity level, willingness to follow the rules for safe teen driving, and experience level on the road. Some young drivers simply learn the skill better than others, so while one teenager may be a very safe driver after a certain number of months behind the wheel, it can take another teenager twice as long to reach that same ability level. It’s also about more than sheer driving skill. The largest danger for a teenager with young passengers is that the passengers will distract him/her, so as a parent, you should be able to objectively evaluate whether your driver is mature enough to stay focused on the road (and whether your other kids will cooperate and avoid distracting your teen driver).
If you do decide to trust your teenager with the school commute, here are a few kids safety tips to keep kids and teenagers safe during the drive:
- Make sure there are enough seat belts and the appropriate car seats or booster seats available for every child, and make sure the driver knows how to properly secure kids in these safety restraints. Have them practice this while you supervise, because people often think they know how to use a car seat when they’re actually using it incorrectly.
- Have your teenager do a dry run of the route while you ride along (several times, if necessary). This is especially true if they will be dropping off younger siblings at different elementary schools, day cares, or other facilities. If this is the case, make sure your teenager knows exactly where to drop off their siblings and what safety protocol to follow.
- Teach your young driver that if a distraction arises in the car (caused by a sibling or something else entirely), they should pull into a parking lot of another safe place to deal with it, rather than trying to multi-task on the road.
- Every teenager should know to never use their phone while driving, but explain to your teenager that this is even more important while they have the additional distractions and responsibilities of a car full of kids.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all kids under age 13 should always sit in the back seat of the vehicle, so make sure your teenager follows this car safety rule for kids. Of course, this also means that your teenager shouldn’t have more young passengers than the number of seatbelts in the back seat.
- Make sure your teenager knows that their permission to transport their siblings should not be interpreted as permission to transport their friends. In fact, Georgia’s graduated driver licensing program puts legal limits on the number of young passengers a new driver can have (other than immediate family members). As a parent, remember that you can also put further restrictions on this as well.
- Consider using a “contract” like the American Academy of Pediatrics’ teen driver agreement, which lays out the rules that both the teenager and the parents should adhere to for safe driving. Throughout the process, many teens respond better to respectful two-way conversations rather than lectures. If it seems to work for your teen, emphasize that you and he/she are a team with one goal – to get the entire family to school and back safely.
Ultimately, every family needs to make their own decisions about their teen’s driving restrictions. Whatever you may choose, our team of trained pediatric professionals at Children’s Wellness Center is here to guide you and answer your questions. To learn more about how to keep your teenager and your other kids safe, call Children’s Wellness Center in Atlanta. For more kids’ health and safety tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.Tags: car safety for kids, is it safe to have teenagers drive other kids to school, kids safety Dunwoody GA, pediatrician Atlanta, teen driving safety tips