Tips for Parents with Student Drivers Going Back to School

teen girl with driver's licenseJust like that, we bid adieu to the dog days of summer and say ‘hello’ to a new school year! There might be many changes as the year begins, but making sure student drivers are safe on the road should be a priority.

If you’re the parent of a current or soon-to-be teenage driver, now is a good time to read up on the steps to becoming a licensed driver and to lay down some road rules for your teen.

Steps to Becoming a Licensed Driver in Pennsylvania

Step 1-Learner’s Permit

At 16, Pennsylvania teens can take their Learner’s Permit Test at a state Driver’s License Center. They will need to bring their social security card, a medical clearance form, and their parent or guardian. Your teen will then take an eye exam and a written test, and if they pass those checks, they will receive their permit.

While they have their permit, your teen can drive only with a licensed driver over the age of 21, or a licensed spouse or guardian who is at least 18, in the front seat. Between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., teens must be accompanied only by a licensed parent, guardian, or spouse. To move to the next step, teens must drive for 65 hours, including 10 hours of night driving and 5 hours in inclement weather. After 6 months, teens can take their Junior License test. Pennsylvania Learner’s Permits are valid for 1 year.

Step 2-Junior License

At 16 years and 6 months of age, after completing step 2 and holding a Learner’s Permit for 6 months, Pennsylvania teens are eligible for their road test to get their Junior Driver’s License. Before taking the test, teens need to make an appointment at their local PennDot Driver’s License Center. During their road test, teens will be required to parallel park and drive through a road course with a proctor in the front seat.

With their Junior License, teens can drive between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. without supervision, or inside those hours with parent, guardian, or spousal supervision. For volunteering and work activities, exceptions exist. With a Junior License, teens cannot drive with more than 1 unrelated passenger under 18-years-old unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Step 3-Full License

To get their full, unrestricted driver’s license, Pennsylvania teens must:

  • Be at least 17 and 6 months old.
  • Have a Junior License for at least 12 months.
  • Remain crash and conviction-free.
  • Take a certified driver education course.

Without the certified driver education course, teen’s licenses become unrestricted at age 18.

For more information about becoming a licensed driver in Pennsylvania, visit the Pennsylvania DMV Services page.

5 Driving Rules for Teens

Even though the full driver’s license has no restrictions (other than those that exist for adult drivers, of course), Direct Paint and Collision recommends parents of teenagers enforce safety rules.

Here are 5 rules to get you started:

  1. Slow Down: “You can’t stop on a dime”, is not just a saying. The faster you’re traveling, the longer it’s going to take you to stop your vehicle. In fact, each time your speed doubles, your stopping distance quadruples. Thirty percent of car crash deaths involve speeding, so make sure your teen knows to obey posted speed limits at all times, and reduce speed as needed to maintain control of the vehicle.
  2. Keep Your Distance: Tailgating is a common habit that leads to many crashes, and injuries, each year. A good rule of ‘thumb’ is to keep a distance of two full car lengths between you and the car in front of you. Make sure your teen understands that the more space they give the driver ahead of them, the more time they have to react and stop if necessary.
  3. No Cell Phones: Phone use while driving is a good area to enact a zero-tolerance policy. Absolutely no texting, no using apps, and no taking calls, even if Bluetooth is enabled. Keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road is the only way to avoid distractions that can lead to crashes. There is enough to focus on while driving without adding a phone into the mix.
  4. No More than One Passenger: Teens are 3 times more likely to engage in dangerous driving with multiple passengers in the car, especially when those passengers are other teens. Friends are a distraction, and they sometimes inflict peer pressure. A one-passenger limit is a good rule of thumb.
  5. Practice Makes Perfect: The biggest issue facing teen drivers is inexperience. Teenagers get into crashes simply because they don’t have the experience to judge gaps in traffic and negotiate turns. Encourage your young driver to practice under your supervision as often as possible. The more real-world experience, the better.

Check out our past blog about school bus safety and road rules. On behalf of all of us at Direct Paint and Collision, have a fun and safe start to the school year!