It's been said that the No. 1 job of a parent is to keep your child safe, and probably one of the most nerve-wracking times for parents is when they are faced with handing over the car keys. While that anxiety is warranted — vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16- to 24-years-olds — PennDOT works with parents and guardians to help educate teen drivers on making good decisions behind the wheel so we can continue to keep everyone using Pennsylvania's roadways safe.
As we enter National Youth Traffic Safety Month, we encourage parents of teenagers to review Pennsylvania's Graduated Driver Licensing law (PDF), which has proven effective in reducing crashes and fatalities for 16- and 17-year-olds. The GDL law includes restrictions for drivers with a learner's permit, as well as those with a junior license. Highlights of the GDL law include:
- Young drivers with a learner's permit are required to complete a six-month skill-building period to practice and gain experience, and an experienced, licensed driver aged 21 or older must accompany the young driver at all times.
- Nighttime driving is restricted between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. for both young drivers with a permit and those with a junior license.
- Young drivers can have only one non-family member under 18 with them in the vehicle. After six months on the junior license, the restriction rises to no more than three passengers under 18. Immediate family members are excluded from the restriction.
TALKING WITH YOUR TEENS
In June 2016, PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards took a personal approach to delivering an important safety message to young drivers convicted of moving traffic violations. Drivers age 16-20 cited for driving infractions received a personal letter from Richards reminding them of the importance of obeying the law and the consequences of poor driving habits so early in their driving experience.
"The issue of young drivers definitely hits home with me as it does with any parent," Richards said. "If we can save one young driver by my personally reminding them that a violation of traffic laws not only means a ticket, but even more serious consequences, then it is well worth the effort."
PennDOT also has its Parent's Supervised Driving Program, which offers a simple, easy-to-follow plan for parents to use to help their teen be a safe and responsible driver. The handbook (PDF) includes sections on basic skills every driver needs to know, as well as "Beyond the Basics" topics and a supervised driving log where parents can keep track of the required 65 hours of practice driving, including the 10 hours of nighttime and five hours of bad weather driving practice. Parents and teens can also download the RoadReady app to track your driving log digitally. (Another great app to download is PennDOT's PA Driver's Practice Test app.) Also, PennDOT and the Pennsylvania DUI Association offer a Teen Safe Driving Resource Guide (PDF).
Here are a few other tips for teaching your teen to drive:
- Set an example and know the rules of the road.
- Start out slow and simple, in a low-traffic area or parking lot.
- Allow your teen to drive in all situations and all kinds of weather.
- Consider establishing a parent/teen driving contract, like this one from AAA (PDF).
- Discuss the dangers of distracted driving, including using a cellphone or even eating or drinking while driving.
Additionally, parents can consider getting a Teen Driver registration plate while their young driver is practicing on the road. Find a list of approved driver education programs on the Pennsylvania Department of Education's website.
Get more information on young driver safety at www.penndot.gov/safety or by visiting Parents Central with resources provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.
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