Now that the shock of your teen starting to drive is behind you, it’s time to focus on the steps to get fully licensed.
Certified, state-approved driving instructors are available through the Safety Council of Palm Beach County to practice on residential and highway roads. Students who enroll in driver education at their public high school can take the “Behind the Wheel” course during class time.
The Dori Slosberg Driver Education Safety Act, community support and the School District of Palm Beach County make this program available during the school year. Another option is a summer school driver education course at select high schools, or contact the Safety Council at 561-845-8233 for private driving lessons.
“Parents must play an integral part of your child learning to drive,” says Toni Burrows, executive vice president of the council. “Discussing expectations, limitations and this process will impact all of the family.”
Teenage drivers have the highest crash risk because they overestimate their driving abilities and underestimate the dangers, according to Highway Loss Data Institute’s website. Graduated driver licensing laws ensure teens gradually build driving experience by limiting nighttime driving, restricting teen passengers and ensuring teens get plenty of supervised practice, thereby reducing teen crashes by 10 percent to 30 percent on average.
Lisa Elbin, a Palm Beach County mother of two, keeps a three-ring binder in the car, not just to jot down her children’s driving mistakes, but also to record the things they do right.
“Taking the responsibility as a parent of personally logging their time behind the wheel is a positive learning experience,” she says. “It’s a relationship-building thing whereby the two of you can directly assess together their level of maturity behind the wheel. The driving log gives you a black-and-white record of each driving experience.”
Elbin says she writes careful notes to improve their awareness, whether it’s a signal or a look over the shoulder for a lane change.
If disagreements arise with your child over road rules, Elbin suggests dropping by your local police station together. “Ask for a non-emergency visit and talk with a police officer to get your child’s questions answered on the spot,” she says.
If no traffic convictions, your teenager can take the driving skills test a year after the learner’s license was issued and after documenting at least 50 hours of behind-the-wheel training — 10 of which must be at night. Check which Department of Motor Vehicles branches offer these tests.
Make your appointment well in advance. You must provide the vehicle for the test, proof of insurance, vehicle registration and parent/guardian certification for the behind-the-wheel hours.
Your teen should be prepared to perform a list of maneuvers on the Florida driving skills test, including a three-point turn in a 30- to 40-foot space, parking in a straight parking spot and stopping quickly and safely. They likely will be asked to back up 50 feet slowly while looking to the rear instead of the rear-view mirror.
Report your child’s new license to your insurance carrier as soon as possible. Some companies offer good students special discounts. Remind teens that their driving records impact insurance rates.
Kelly Powell, program director of Safe Kids Palm Beach County, suggests to review together their teen driving tips once teens get their full license. Parents also can look into research on how new technology is help saving lives.
“Several autonomous cars now have teen driving apps built into them that track speed, miles driven and whether or not seatbelts were buckled,” she says.
Additional safe driving resources:
• Toni Burrows, executive vice president, Safety Council Palm Beach County
• Kelly Powell, program director, Safe Kids of Palm Beach County