“I was scared and freaked out, but the only way she was going to get through it was to just do it,” says Patricia Faust, a Medina parent of a 16-year-old.
Faust is talking about the one thing that petrifies many parents — teen driving.
According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, more than 68,000 Ohioans ages 15 to 16 hit the roads for the first time last year. Based on past trends, we can see nearly as many becoming first-time drivers this year.
Allowing your teen to get in a car as a new driver and take off alone is a daunting experience for many parents — and statistics show that there may be a good reason to feel overwhelmed.
Anna Bryant, State Farm public affairs specialist, says car crashes are the number one killer of teens.
“We see the dreadful toll these crashes can take on families,” she says. “We believe the answer to reducing teen driving fatalities lies in a multi-pronged approach that includes strong graduated driver licensing laws, education, awareness and technology.”
Parents who are successfully moving through this process say it is really important that they talk to their teens about the responsibility of being behind the wheel.
Charmaine Holland, of Garfield Heights, says it is those discussions that give her peace of mind.
“For as long as I could remember, I would explain to my son how and why I was making certain decisions while driving,” she says. “When I was driving he would begin to ask me questions or offer reverse mentoring, usually correcting me for not using a turn signal, braking too hard, or handling my phone while driving.”
Faust adds that she is diligently working to help her daughter understand defensive driving.
“When you are a teen driver, you have to make a conscious decision about everything you do when driving,” she says. “You have to be aware how other people around you are driving, such as how fast are they approaching a stop sign, or if it looks like a driver is going to go through the light at the intersection you are approaching. It’s difficult for teens to process all of this, which is why I think they are prone to accidents.”
Adding in Technology
Some parents of new teen drivers, including Faust, are finding extra comfort when they use technology to help track their teens’ driving habits. Faust uses an app called Life360. The app’s Driver Protect plan provides weekly driving reports that show distracted driving behaviors such as speed, texting, hard braking and rapid acceleration.
“The first step to being a better driver is knowing your bad driving habits, and we’ve had our members write in telling us that they use the driving reports to have conversations with their teens about responsible driving,” says Ariana Heelebuyck, Life360 vice president of marketing.
One of the biggest concerns parents express is how their teens will handle cell phones in the car. Many fear using the phone is an overwhelming temptation for teen drivers. To combat this temptation, Michael Lesko, of University Heights, says modeling is his go-to method.
“I don’t pick up the phone while driving in the car,” he says. “I don’t look at it. My wife uses bluetooth technology in her car. Both of us are very cognizant of setting those examples.”
Worries about teen driving for Lesko are put on hold for now. His 17-year-old daughter Emma is in no rush to get her license. “The idea of driving makes me really nervous and anxious,” she says. “It is a big responsibility that I am not ready to take on.”
Lesko adds that putting your teen driver behind the wheel does require a leap a faith — but, he says, it ultimately comes down to the level of trust you have in your child.