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Driving-325Remember how exciting it was to get your driver’s license as a teenager? I do. It was exhilarating. But now, as the parent of two teenage drivers, my excitement for them is often overshadowed by anxiousness and worry.

As parents, we want to protect our kids. When it comes to driving, the best way to do that is to demonstrate how to be safe behind the wheel. Lead by example, and teach your teenage driver these important rules:

1.   Turn off your cell phone. It’s not safe to call or text when you drive.

2.    Always keep your headlights on.

3.    Don’t speed.

4.    Minimize distractions, like eating or changing the radio station.

5.    Practice defensive driving. Have your teen imagine different scenarios and how they would handle them.

6.    Never drive when you are upset.

7.    Never drive with anyone who has been drinking or using drugs. This may seem obvious to your teen, but it’s worth repeating.

8.    Know exactly what to do in the event of an accident, and talk about it with your teen.

Under Oregon law, for the first six months that your teen has their license, they are NOT allowed to drive with passengers under 20 years old unless they are a member of the driver’s immediate family. You can read more on the state’s provisional license requirements and restrictions in the Oregon Parent Guide to Teen Driving. This is a good resource.

In addition, here are some steps you can take as a parent to help protect your young driver:

1.    Delay car ownership. Kids who must ask their parents’ permission to use a vehicle reduce their risk of getting into an accident by half.

2.    Make sure your teen is driving a safe vehicle, one that is easy to maneuver, with airbags and good tires. Bigger, heavier cars are also safer for young drivers.

3.    Discourage driving after 9 pm until your teen is more experienced on the road. Oregon law already bans driving between midnight and 5 am for the first year your teen is licensed (with a few exceptions).

4.    Every time your child leaves the house, remind him or her to drive safely. It’s important for them to hear those words repeatedly.

5.    And my favorite tip: Pray for their safe return! I always do.

Having regular conversations about safety, practicing driving together and leading by example will go a long way in ensuring your teen makes smart decisions behind the wheel.

God bless all of us parents whose kids are new drivers. Emotionally, it may be one of the most difficult phases for moms and dads, as children transition to young adults. It definitely requires a leap of faith!