Is Your Teen Ready for a Car?

When teens get old enough to drive, the question arises: are they old enough to get their own car? Not every parent can afford to give their teenager the gift of a vehicle and not every teenager can afford to buy his or her own car. However, there are many parents and teens who can manage the expenses involved and for them the question becomes, should they do it? Is a teenager really ready to be responsible for a vehicle?

If you’re a parent considering getting or allowing your child to have his or her own car, consider the following tips:

Gauge His or Her Driving Skills
If safety is your concern, then the first thing to do is assess your teen’s driving skills. If your teen was able to get a license to drive, then at the very least you know he or she has the basics. However, many new drivers get into accidents simply due to lack of experience behind the wheel. How long has your child been driving? There’s a big difference between driving 6 months and 3 years. Ask the insurance companies! In fact, you can ask your insurance company to help you assess the accident risk of a teenager your child’s age and gender. That can help you decide whether to permit your child to have a car at all and also whether that car, if you decide to go ahead with it, should be a brand new luxury product or a clunker that you can afford to lose.

Suppose you are not quite confident that your child is road-ready, despite what the licencing bureau has said. Your child is not the only one at risk. Anyone who drives in the car with him or her (like your other children or others) is at equal risk, as are all the other “innocent” drivers on the road and pedestrians on the sidewalks. Driving is serious, life-threatening business. Therefore, you want to be very sure that your child can handle the responsibility of being behind the wheel. Do you want your child to have more experience before handing him or her a set of keys? If so, explain your concerns and give him or her opportunities to strengthen driving skills. Designate this child as family driver for a pre-agreed period of time, helping out with errands and short local trips. Once he or she is familiar with the roads in your neighborhood, then go ahead and extend the excursions. Drive with your child to get an idea of their driving abilities.

Note Your Child’s Attitude
Skill is one thing; attitude is another. Many accidents on the road are caused, not by drivers who lack skill, but drivers who are reckless. It’s important then to ask yourself, does your child have the right attitude for driving?

Parents can assess their children pretty accurately by asking themselves some simple questions such as the following: Are they prone to impulsive behavior? Are they competitive to the degree that they ignore their own safety, or other’s well-being? Are they temperamental, hot-headed, or unable to manage their emotions? Or perhaps they’re easy to distract, and can often be found unproductively juggling several things at once. Are they easily influenced by their peers? Are they more concerned about their social life than their responsibilities (like schoolwork, family responsibilities, jobs and so on)? Do they drink or take drug? Do they respect the law? Can they take serious things seriously? Are they trustworthy? Do they have a way to pay for vehicle-related expenses (including the cost of the vehicle, licences and permits, upkeep and repairs)? Have they managed to hold down a job and save up their money?

If you spot an attitude that might possibly pose as a driving risk, discuss it with your youngster. You have the right to say, “I feel that such & such behavior can pose a driving risk and I’m not comfortable at this time with you having a car. We need to wait until we see that this behavior is straightened out.” For instance, if your daughter has had difficulty respecting her curfew for the last year, and has been suspended from school recently for skipping classes with friends, you might feel that she is not ready for the responsibility of her own car. Or, if your son has borrowed money from you on several occasions and has had trouble keeping his commitment to pay it back, you may feel that he is not ready for the financial aspects of car ownership. Whatever your reason, remember that ultimately YOU will be responsible for whatever goes wrong on the road. Your teenager is still a dependent child even if he or she CAN drive! Make sure YOU are ready for your child to own a car.

It’s better that you teenagers know why you’re hesitant in getting them a car, rather than have them think that you’re being stingy or mean. Many things can be corrected, if you just invest time in teaching your teen the values and traits you’d like them to acquire. Send them for professional counseling if you feel that there are serious issues that require correction. And remember that each additional year of life brings another year of experience and, hopefully, maturity. Waiting a bit may be appropriate. You might even be able to employ the idea of a new  car as an opportunity to guide your child toward increased maturity. The vehicle becomes more than just as symbol of their journey to adulthood but an actual part of that journey!

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