Program gives parents tools to teach teen drivers

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Practice makes perfect they say, and that axiom could never be more true when it comes to driving.

Unfortunately, it's difficult for some young drivers to get the "windshield time" they need to develop vital driving skills, and establish safe habits.

The high cost of cars, fuel, insurance and maintenance make it increasingly difficult for teens to practice navigating streets, highways and country roads.

Add to that the ability to keep in touch with friends electronically, and it's no wonder more and more young people are doing without cars or drivers licenses.

We can't speak for every reader, but parents aren't always the best teachers when it comes to drivers education. Somehow, it's hard to be a detached, objective instructor when it's your child, vehicle and financial resources involved.

In that case, the tuition for a certified drivers education course is well worth the money.

If you and your teen driver do get along in the car, however, the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles has begun offering a new program to help parents give teens the knowledge and practice they need to drive safely.

Nebraska law allows drivers who have not passed a DMV-approved driver safety course to qualify for a school or provisional-operator's permit if they log at least 50 hours of driving time with a parent, guardian or licensed driver who's at least 21 years old.

The new parent's supervised driving program, which will be distributed in DMV offices when teen drivers receive a learner's permit, include manuals with a driver's log and specific advice for parents teaching their children how to turn, park and navigate rural roads or interstates. The program is designed as a confidence-builder that encourages fledgling drivers to practice in different conditions -- nightime, rainy weather, highway driving and in cities -- with a parent at their side.

"As a parent, you make a difference in what kind of a driver your child becomes," said Col. David Sankey, superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol. "That doesn't mean they won't ever make a poor choice when they get behind the wheel. None of us can control that. But what we can do is set the foundation for respect needed when operating motor vehicles."

The need is real.

So far this year, Sankey said, of the 115 people who have died in motor vehicle crashes, 19 were teenagers, and only six of those were wearing seat belts.

Developed by the Safe Roads Alliance nonprofit in partnership with the Fort Motor Co., versions of the program are in place in 13 other states.

Besides the driving manuals and online services, there's even a smartphone app that lets teenagers track their driving times.

Just not while they're driving.

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