Cooperative Extension Agent - Heather Gordon

An interesting thing about the location of the Cooperative Extension Office is that we share space with the Department of Motor Vehicles and see all kinds of people from around the county.

Sometimes new drivers, who grew up in 4-H, pop by to exclaim about their new driving permits or licenses. Each time I think, “Wow, how can that kid be old enough to drive? I remember when she was 10.”

It’s such a milestone for a young person to get a driver’s license. It’s also a big responsibility. New teen drivers ages 16-17 are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash, according to new research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Distraction, not buckling up and speeding are the three main factors that contribute to crashes by teenage drivers.

Teenagers are excited about the new found freedom that comes with learning to drive. Youth today have many possessions that just a few years ago were relegated to adulthood. It seems every young person has a cell phone, a television, a computer and a game system.

Along with all of these possessions we seem to have suggested (maybe inadvertently) that youth have also acquired the maturity that goes along with adulthood. Developmentally this just isn’t so. Learning to drive a car is a wonderful new skill but it is an adult responsibility and your teenager may need some help learning this.

The following guidelines for parents of teen drivers are from

Know What’s in the Car: Don’t just leave the car to your child. Check it out every once in a while to be sure that they’re not hiding drugs, alcohol or other items in the car. You may also want to remind them about rotting banana peels and drink cups at the same time.

Map out a Plan: Set limits on driving, especially in high-risk conditions such as at night or on the highway, in poor weather conditions and with other teens in the car. Limit your teen from riding with other new drivers, and make sure he or she never gets in a car with other teens who have been drinking or using drugs.

Take Caution: Talk with your teenager about where he is going and know who he is with.

Establish Pit Stops: Set up specific times when your teen will call and check in with you about where she is, and what she’s doing.

Go For a Spin: Don’t stop driving with your teenager just because she got her license. There’s still a lot to learn and you should continue driving together. This is also a great opportunity for some one on one time with your child.

Revel in the experience of witnessing the growth and maturity of your child as he or she learns to drive. A few guidelines can help so that everyone stays safe and driving remains a positive experience for everyone involved.

For more information about 4-H activities for youth check out on Facebook at Jackson County N.C. 4-H or our website

Heather Gordon is Jackson County extension agent, 4-H Youth Development.