Preparing Your Teen

– Download a “Preparing Your Teen” quick reference guide –

Why driving practice is so important?

Driving is the most dangerous thing most teens will ever do. In fact, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in North Carolina. Why are teens involved in so many crashes? It boils down to one word: inexperience. Learning something new takes time, especially when it’s something as complex and dangerous as driving. As a parent, you can help by making sure your teen gets lots of driving practice in a wide range of different settings and conditions.

How much practice is “enough”?

In North Carolina, we have a process in place to encourage lots of practice. The learner permit stage is an opportunity for you to help your teen become a safe driver. Start by practicing in easy settings, such as in an empty parking lot or in your neighborhood. Then work up to more difficult situations as both you and your teen feel more comfortable and confident.

By law, your teen is required to get at least 60 hours of supervised practice during the learner stage. That sounds like a lot, right? In fact, experts recommend that teens get 100 hours of practice or more. Your teen cannot get too much practice.

It’s also important to get practice in a wide range of situations. This includes Interstate highways, rural roads, rush hour traffic, nighttime, and bad weather. You can help your teen learn how to handle these situations safely. Think about other roadways or situations where you live that would be challenging for a new driver, and where your teen will need lots of practice.

Why is 12 months of practice considered the “gold standard” for teen driver safety?

Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) has reduced teen crashes in every state, but virtually no other state has seen the extensive benefits found in North Carolina. This is largely due to the 12-month learner period, which is considered by safety experts to be the gold standard. And it’s not just safety experts. In a recent survey, 88% of parents of teen drivers in North Carolina said the 12-month duration of the learner period was “about right;” 6% said it was not long enough. Only 5% said it was too long.

Learn more about the research behind NC’s GDL system.

Tips for getting enough practice

It can be hard to find time to practice, given the busy schedules of most families. Also, it’s not unusual for teens to get bored with driving after the initial “thrill” wears off. Here are some tips for getting enough practice:

Remember, your job is to help your teen become a safe driver. You can use this online tool to help you keep track of your teen’s progress. If by the end of the learner period you do not think your teen is ready for independent driving, it is ok to delay getting a license to continue practicing. Keep getting practice until both you and your teen are comfortable and confident with your teen’s driving.

Communicating with your teen about driving

Anyone who has a teen knows communication isn’t easy! But there are some strategies you can use to help make your practice driving sessions less stressful and for your teen to get the most of out them.

Track your teen’s driving skills

How can you tell when your teen has had enough practice in different settings and is ready to drive independently? We’ve developed a tool to help you keep track of your teen’s progress. This tool lists 22 driving situations, starting with easy things like driving in good weather, and working up to harder situations like heavy traffic, driving in an unfamiliar place, or driving in heavy rain. Your job is to rate how comfortable you would be with your teen driving in each situation without you in the car.

Complete the tool several times over the course of the Learner period. Doing so will help you see your teen’s successes and will help you identify where your teen may still need more practice. It’s especially important to complete the assessment as your teen nears the time when they are eligible for a license so you can determine if there are things your teen still needs to practice before driving independently.

– Track Your Teen’s Driving Skills Tool –