As adults, it can be easy for us to forget just how powerful peer pressure can actually be, with most of it hopefully long gone from the scene that is captured in our rear view mirrors. Teens, on the other hand, live lives that are fraught with it at every turn, in every conversation, and with each new day. Different teens deal with this issue in different ways, as every person has a different make up and tolerance, and levels of self esteem tend to not only vary, but they are at their most fragile during the teen years. One of the most dangerous periods in the life of anyone occurs during those first few years of driving.
WE DO WHAT WE CAN
We often feel that if we spend a decent amount of time letting our learning driver practice honing his or her skillful mastery of commandeering such a huge assemblage of heavy metal, we will have done our part. As parents, we spend much time being concerned about the actual level of caution our teen will exercise when “out there” on his or her own, with the family car entrusted to their safekeeping. We grill, chide and admonish to what appears to be the mostly deaf-turned ears of our student driver. We continue talking all the while, with full comprehension that at some approaching point, that new motorist out there traversing the roadways will be ourlittle person who only yesterday was learning how to ride a two wheeled bicycle without training wheels. And now we are daily checking Kijiji to find a really good car for our teen, such as a gently used Nissan Altima, that would be just the right size and safe enough for our standards.
FEAR WILL EVENTUALLY TURN INTO ACCEPTANCE
So, at some point, the day comes when we (however hesitantly) hand the keys over to the newest driver in the house, and take advantage of our last opportunity to give them the “look” before they are off and away. And there, we languish…at least for 10 minutes or so, until the first powerful enough distraction occurs to effectively capture our thoughts. But only when the new driver returns and hands the keys back to you in an uneventful manner will you be able to fully exhale again. Hard now to believe that, in time, such comings and goings will be then commonplace and easy. You may then even consider beginning a search for a nice car your teen driver can purchase, with or without your help. And hopefully we will all arrive at that point unscratched, unmarred and fully intact, both man and beast (or car, if you will, [wink.]) But, wait a moment–there is another critical issue that requires as much as if not more admonishments for teens everywhere. It has to do with being a passenger in a car that is being driven by another new driver.
THE OTHER TEEN DRIVER
Some parents circumvent this issue altogether, by only allowing their teens to ride with seasoned, experienced drivers who have a proven track record. It’s always good to equip any teen with some forethought about what to do if the kid driving the car they are riding in suddenly begins driving irresponsibly in any manner. Discuss with your teen how to best deal with requesting that the wild ride stop either by the driver resuming a safe driving mode or by letting you off, right on the spot. Talk about how they would get home, eg. taxi, relative, friend, etc. Hopefully there will never be an occasion for you or your teen to experience this, and even though you know that your teen is a conscientious driver. You can count on your teen always returning back home in your Nissan Sentra, with it still in tip-top shape and the gas gauge is exactly where you left it (or close enough.) You can not, however, predict the manner in which another teen may chauffer your precious cargo. Preparing yours to handle it responsibly is a huge step in the direction of helping your teen to be safe.