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Driving is the ultimate step toward adulthood and freedom for any teenager. As a parent, you want to give them all of the right tools and information so they can have their independence while staying safe and protected.

The goal of any driver’s ed program is to provide novice drivers with the facts, figures and rules of the road. The American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association (ADTSEA) outlines a few criteria for what all driver’s ed programs should teach:

When looking for a good driving school or teaching your child yourself if you so choose, and your state allows it, make sure all of these boxes are checked in the curriculum to make sure your teen is getting a thorough education.

Like you might expect, immaturity and inexperience are the two main reasons teen drivers struggle behind the wheel. That’s why every state has adopted a Graduating Driver Licensing (GDL) program. These programs, which vary state to state, bring kids into the world of driving gradually, so they don’t get overwhelmed when they’re starting out behind the wheel. Most programs include 3 stages:

Different states also have different restrictions for teen drivers, from the number of passengers allowed in the car with them to cell phone usage behind the wheel. New Jersey has even passed a law that requires those younger than 21 without full-privilege licenses to display a decal on their vehicle identifying them as new drivers. Easing teens into driving gradually gives them time to get used to being behind the wheel, and allows them to focus better on individual driving skills. That way, once they’re behind the wheel on their own, they’ll not only be better educated, they’ll also be more confident, both of which are keys to safe driving.

It’s also good to remember that driver’s ed doesn’t start and end in the classroom. Practice is the best thing for any novice driver, and as a parent, you can take your teen out in controlled environments with your supervision in order to give them practical experience and build up their skills behind the wheel. You also influence the way your teen drives every time you get behind the wheel. Kids will pick up their driving habits from the experienced drivers that they see. Be sure to wear your seatbelt and keep your hands at 10 and 2 to provide a great example for your teen to fall back on, because when things get complicated, they’ll rely on what they know.

Driving is a sign your child is growing up, but protecting them is still every parent’s top priority. Making sure that your child learns the rules of the road in the classroom as well as with supervised driving sessions are key to ensuring your child has the information and practical experience you need to stay safe behind the wheel.

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