Some look back on it as a joyous rite of passage, a time of liberation and adventure. Others mostly remember the rattled nerves. For better or worse, learning to drive a car is something we never forget.
Of course, there’s more to it than knowing how to squeeze into that parallel parking spot without leaving a trail of paint chips. Perhaps the most important lessons are about character and values.
For parents and teachers, it’s a terrific opportunity to reinforce the Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and good citizenship.
Here are some lessons to guide beginning drivers down the road to a long, clean driving record.
Preparing to Drive: Trustworthiness and Responsibility
Before you can get behind the wheel alone, you need to prove that you are trustworthy and responsible. That starts by learning the rules of the road, practicing safe driving and studying so you can ace your driving test. Take advantage of online study tools like the Arizona practice permit. Even if your state doesn’t mandate a driver’s education class, you might consider taking one privately. If you don’t pass your driver’s test the first time, that’s OK! Keep persevering and use self-discipline to practice hard and try again.
Once you pass the test and have your license, you’ll probably want to take the car out without Mom or Dad at your side. The key to getting the keys is earning trust and demonstrating responsibility. Don’t forget that everything you do sends a message about that.
Being Safe and Courteous: Respect and Caring
It is important to respect every rule enforced by law and by your parents, even if you don’t agree with all of them. Every state has its own unique traffic laws that you must know and follow. Do your parents have a “no cell phone while in the car” rule? In most states, that is a law, too. In 38 states, there is a mobile phone ban for drivers, and 42 states ban text messaging while driving. Some other state-specific laws:
- Under Arizona’s Stupid Motorist Law, if a driver goes around a barrier and gets stuck in flood water and must be rescued, the driver is responsible for reimbursing the city.
- Also in Arizona, new drivers cannot have more than one other person under 18 in the car with them and cannot drive between midnight and five in the morning.
- In California, drivers cannot use handheld communication devices and drivers under 18 cannot use communication devices at all.
Following these laws and demonstrating courtesy toward other drivers, as well as caring for the safety of your passengers and everyone else on the road, will show you are mature and will inspire confidence in your ability to drive alone.
Consequences: Fairness and Citizenship
If you do break the rules, you must understand and accept the consequences, whether it is being grounded by your parents or having to pay a speeding ticket. Consequences for unsafe actions can help you learn valuable lessons and keep you safe in the future. The price you pay for breaking safe driving rules is a fair way to remind you that the consequences could potentially be much worse. The leading cause of death in teens in the United States is car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The teens most at risk are males, newly licensed drivers and teens with other teens in the car. Distracted driving more than 3,300 people in 2012. For drivers under age 20, 11 percent of fatal accidents were caused by distracted driving and for drivers age 15 to 19, and 21 percent of distracted drivers involved in fatal accidents were using cell phones. When a driver sends or receives a text message, they take their eyes off of the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. While that seems like no time at all, if your car is traveling 55 mph, in 4.6 seconds you can travel the length of a football field. For teen drivers, the price of this recklessness is often death.
Part of being a good citizen is staying informed and making good choices. If you are a passenger with a friend who is driving unsafely, get out of the car. Don’t let your friends influence your proper driving, and inform them of lessons you learn about being safe behind the wheel. Driving can be liberating and exhilarating, but remember that it’s also like operating dangerous machinery: just one mistake can produce tragic consequences.
Use the Six Pillars of Character as guideposts and you’ll always be heading safely in the right direction.