The safety of teens while they drive has always been a factor with parents concern for their safety. If it was unwarranted, then insurance for teens wouldn’t be so much higher than their older siblings. Of course, factors like having better grades, being involved in sports etc leads to better odds which is why most larger insurance companies offer discounts for having good grades. But is that enough now that technology plays such a huge role in teen driving and safety? Also, the rate at which teens are seeking out a license is the LOWEST it’s been since 1997.
Losing Their Drive
Take the case of Madison Corr, an 18 year old first year college student. She didn’t start the process until she had graduated high school but just couldn’t bring herself to schedule the “road test” to get her license. She put in only 10-15 hours of actual road time but couldn’t overcome the obstacle of “what could happen” out on the road. She’s now 24 years old, unlicensed, and living on her own in Philedelphia. She says, “My parents put a lot of pressure on me to get one,” she said. “But I haven’t needed one to this point. If there’s an emergency, I’ll call an Uber or 911.”
She's not the only one, Among Gen Z, there is an increased interest in public transit. Whether fear or simply being more “carbon aware,” those among Gen Z are part of a growing trend to sway public opinion when it comes to owning and driving a personal vehicle. Equipped with ride-sharing apps and social media, “zoomers,” as they are sometimes called, are getting their driver’s licenses at lower rates than their predecessors. Unlike previous generations, they don’t see cars as a ticket to freedom or a crucial life milestone. The question — for American drivers and for the planet — is whether that trend will last.
Think about it this way, in 1997 43% of 16 year olds and 62% of 17year olds had gotten their driver’s licenses. When you compare that to the number in 2020, you see that number has fallen to just 25% and 45%. Of the many reasons why those in genz state for not wanting to drive is anxiety, finances, and some environmental concern. The majority of those stating that the reason they haven't yet gotten their license is because they are afraid of getting into an accident crash or of driving itself.
“When I was learning with my parents, a
lot of times I would end up crying because I was so stressed out, quote one student said. After failing the drivers test twice, she decided to take a break until she felt more confident. This teen, now 23 years old takes public transportation or the occasional Lyft or Uber.
But it's not necessarily even just driving, a lot of teens are pushing back a lot of milestones that were normally pursued at a much younger age. Marriage, moving out, having kids, and purchasing their first car are all a part of those trends. Is it that teens are maturing a lot later? Or could it be all the pushback about "adulting" has resulted in a lack of confidence in their being able to handle the pressures Millenials have been complaining about?
Here are some things to think about
How we respond to our teens while they are driving makes a difference. If we overreact, we heighten their anxiety of making a mistake. It would go a long way for us to be able to temper our responses by responding more calmly when things go awry.
You can actually help set them up for success by going at their pace, rather than what we did or what we think they should be capable of. For instance, don't be so quick to take them out on the road. What does that mean? It means, spending more time in parking lots like at the mall which can simulate on the road driving, or even perhaps driving around a college might give them some “real world experience” without the dangers surrounding faster traffic. You still have stop signs and other traffic, but it's moving much more slowly.
My oldest son and I did this for nearly two years before he was ready to get his drivers license. At least 1/3 of that driving time was in what I would call a “closed course setting" like the mall or OSU Newark. In fact, when he got his license at 18, he didn't have to pay the over the top course fees for driving school.
What if God Is Trying To Teach US
In many ways it would do well for us to control our outbursts and knee jerk reactions and many other instances as well. This is one of the most commonly cited reasons why teens are hesitant to talk to parents. But what I would call “the freak out.” it's all good, the only way to get better at these situations is to go through them and to apologize when we're not nailing it. This allows them to see that not only are we human but it's OK for mom or dad to be wrong once in a while. By the way, this only helps you to be more approachable. God certainly uses me to teach my wife patience, but let me tell you...teaching our kids to drive gave me a lot of opportunities to learn self-control and patience. You got this. But even more importantly, we need to help our kids to realize that: THEY HAVE THIS. We can teach them the confidence that they need to become safe drivers, and even less distracted drivers (yes mom and dad, stay off YOUR phone too even while you're driving with them). What you have is 30-45 minutes of uninterrupted time to connect with them, find out how they are doing and to hear their hearts without being able to slip away to their rooms or to a friend's house. If your student is asking you to teach them to drive...TAKE THAT OPPORTUNITY and don't pass the buck to some stranger.
Here is Where We Might Be Going Wrong
Often ties when we are trenching kids to drive or to just do life in general, we emphasize teaching them to have "self-confidence." This in an of itself is the very root of the driving problem. Teaching them to be a better driver won't necessarily help because they can come up with ALL SORTS of things to worry about without our help. Instead of teaching our teens how to get self confidence, we must build confidence in teens by teaching them this important concept: “God is my confidence.”
We need to teach children how to have a godly confidence—an unshakeable, unchanging assurance—that is founded on a dependence on God. By teaching them how to develop self confidence based on God’s word and promises (instead of their own abilities) we can give our teens the firm foundation they need but in every area of their lives. God has so many wonderful things in store for their lives and the ability to drive is just a bonus. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us of this.
Many times the fears they have aren't isolated in just the area of driving. By teaching them to place their hope and trust in Christ in every area it can bring freedom to the areas that may be the most difficult to trust. One of the things that I love about riding with Pastor Gary is that we pray before we head out on any trip, during that prayer, regardless of who is praying, is the reminder that "Lord, you are in control, but help us to honor during this trip and to be a Light and Life to everyone we come into contact with. Keep us safe, help us to be safe, and surround us with your angels."
It's not perfect fit for every situation, but teaching our kids to place their FAITH, HOPE, and TRUST in Christ takes the impetus of responsibility off of them being able to control everything that can happen and opens our heart to the reality that truly God IS in control. This does NOT mean I am advocating a "Jesus take the wheel" or "letting go and letting God" type of driving.