Teenage Road Trip: Family Time Can Double As Teaching Moment
by Andrew Wunderlich

That upcoming family road trip over the river and through the woods is an ideal time to show your teenagers the ropes of driving. Of course the legal driving age varies depending on your home state or territory.

The ACT Department of Territory issues learner licences at age 15 years and nine months. These drivers must have a parent or other supervisor with them to operate a motor vehicle. All other states and territories issue learner licences at age 16. But fear not: if your 15-year-old obtained a learner licence in Canberra, she can still drive to grandma’s house in Brisbane, as long as a licenced adult driver is in the front seat with her.

The more driving your teenagers do on the road trip means less driving for mom and dad; and also means invaluable experience your young drivers need before heading off on their own.

The Hard Facts

Road trips can be long, boring and even nerve-racking. Allowing teenagers to drive can not only break the monotony, but give them valuable experience that could ultimately save their lives.

The numbers are staggering when it comes to inexperienced drivers and injuries across the nation. A driver who is 17 or younger is four times as likely to be in a car crash involving fatalities than a driver 26 years of age or older, according to the George Institute of Global Health in Sydney. Further, nearly 50 percent of all younger people (aged 17 to 25) admitted to Australian hospitals were drivers in car crashes, and another 25 percent were passengers in car accidents. When doing a Compare the Market Car Insurance Comparison, premiums are higher for younger drivers because of the aforementioned realities, which are mostly due to inexperience and distraction.

Make A Game Out Of It

A 600 kilometer trip can be accomplished in less than seven hours, but will seem like double that without spicing the trip up. Siblings, by nature, are competitive and want to outperform the others in everything from grades to athletics. Driving is no exception. If you have two teenagers, allow one to drive until they make some sort of error. These can include answering a cell phone, changing lanes without signaling, traveling over the speed limit and anything else you set forth. The other teen takes over at that point and drives until he makes an error. The one who logs the most driving time “wins,” and will have a great story to tell grandma when you get there.

Calm Your Nerves

The bonding and teaching moments that come from this will only benefit your teenager if you are calm and confident in them. Granted being in the passenger seat of a moving car driven by an inexperienced driver will speed anyone’s heart rate up. Make certain that their hands are at 9 and 3 on the steering wheel, not the proverbial “10 and 2.” The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States cites gruesome injuries to drivers’ hands and fingers as a result of airbag deployment in minor fender benders. The lower your hands are on the wheel, the less chance of severe injury. This position also allows your child to turn the steering wheel 180-degrees without moving their hands. Both you and the driver should wear your seat belts, keep music at a low volume and know your surroundings at all times.
Andrew Wunderlich  is the owner, operator and instructor at Teen Road to Safety, Inc