Every U.S. state has different laws regarding the process young drivers must go through before they can obtain a full driver’s license. These laws are part of statewide Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs that aim to help teen and novice drivers become fully educated about safe driving procedures, practices, and laws before they are on their own behind the wheel.
In Missouri, young drivers may get a learner permit at 15 and they must have it for a minimum of 6 months. 40 supervised driving hours (10 nighttime) are required during this learner stage.
An intermediate stage follows which teens must be 16 years old or older to progress through. Drivers at this stage may drive solo but are restricted from driving from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. and may not have more than 1 passenger under 19 for the first 6 months.
These laws are designed to help teens learn and practice safe driving behaviors. As parents, friends, and mentors, what else can we do to encourage our teens to develop safe driving habits? Here are some tips:
- Be a good role model: When you’re driving and your teen is with you, practice what you preach. Follow the laws of traffic always and point out examples of other drivers driving unsafely or negligently. Also, make it a point early on to talk about the dangers of driving while texting/otherwise distracted. Never use your cell phone while driving with your teen if you can avoid it. Setting a good example is the best way to ensure they become safe drivers themselves.
- Don’t lose your cool: When supervising a teen who’s learning how to drive, don’t lose your patience with them. Never yell. If something goes wrong, calmly instruct them to pull over, stop the vehicle, and talk about what happened. Getting angry won’t help them learn what they did wrong—it will only make them angry/anxious.
- Start out slow: When your teen first becomes able to drive by themselves, make sure they don’t overdo it. Encourage short trips at first and make sure they always get a full night’s sleep before getting behind the wheel. This gives them as much time as possible to feel comfortable driving on their own.
- Pair driver responsibility with financial responsibility: When it comes time for your teen to get a new insurance policy/be added to yours, have them help pay for their insurance as well as car maintenance, etc. This is the perfect time to teach them that they are responsible for a lot more than themselves when they’re driving.
- Get them a safe car: When choosing a car for your teen, make sure it’s one equipped with safety features. Midsize or full-size cars offer more protection and can make it easier for a new driver to easily view all their blind spots. Additionally, a newer car will require less maintenance and will give them less trouble overall.
By following the above tips and going to the extra mile to ensure your teen prioritizes safety when behind the wheel and remembers lives are in their hands, you can help them—and others—stay safe. If you or your teen has been in a car accident and your family is questioning their legal options, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Columbia, MO personal injury law firm today.