By Laura Flynn McCarthy
Learning to drive is an exciting rite of passage for most teens -- and a nerve-racking one for their parents. Especially when you consider the statistics: Within the first year of getting their license, as many as 40 percent of teen drivers have an accident. And while most crashes are minor, data indicates that every year 5,000 to 6,000 American teens are killed in car accidents and another 300,000 are injured. Novice young drivers also pose a threat to others on the road: Nearly two-thirds of those killed in accidents involving teen drivers are pedestrians or occupants of other vehicles, reveals a recent report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
But you have ultimate control over when and how your child learns to drive. Research shows that giving teenagers as much supervised driving experience as possible and setting the right road rules will make them better, safer drivers. "Many parents and teens see the driver's test as a major milestone, but getting a license doesn't mean teens are immediately ready to drive alone under all conditions," says Flaura Koplin Winston, MD, PhD, founder and co-scientific-director of the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and the principal investigator of Partners for Child Passenger Safety, a research collaboration with State Farm Insurance. "Independent driving should be phased in gradually." Our road map, a sanity-saver for both kids and parents, can help.