Parents of soon-to-be teen drivers, take heart. You have an ally in keeping your children safe: your state's graduated licensing laws. Nearly all states impose graduated-licensing restrictions on young teen drivers, with impressive results. Since the early 2000s, the number of 15-to-20-year-olds involved in fatal crashes has been cut by almost half nationwide. And 16-year-olds receive three times fewer tickets under graduated licensing than drivers who wait until 18 (with no restrictions) to begin driving.
Graduated licensing progressively increases freedom for drivers under 18 as they continue to develop the attention, judgment, perception and decision-making skills needed to drive safely. The process starts with a learner's permit that allows teens as young as 15 to enroll in driver's education and begin gaining practice on the road.
When they pass state tests, teens can earn an "intermediate" or "provisional" driver's license at age 16. It restricts teen passengers, night driving and wireless device use. When teens turn 18, the last of the restrictions (wireless use) is removed, giving them full driving privileges.
Graduated licensing steps differ slightly between Washington and Oregon. Click your state for a summary.
A WORRY-LESS TIP
Obeying graduated licensing laws is a meaningful way families in our communities can worry less and live more.
But you can take it a step further: Use your state's requirements as a starting point for teens, and enforce your own graduated driving "house rules." That can include an activity-based curfew, determined by what your teen is doing. Going to a movie that ends at 9:30 p.m.? Be home by 10 p.m. A dance that ends at 10 p.m.? Be home by 11 p.m. Common sense restrictions like that seem fair to teens and eliminate aimless driving. For more ideas, see A parent-teen driving agreement you both can live with.