Now that they have their Ps…

October 22, 2018

Now that they have their Ps…

Your role is not over yet – now they are really learning.

By Dr Bridie Scott-Parker


You’ve survived the super-scary learner; a lot of practice hours in the logbook; the driving examiner said ‘yes’, and now you are both looking ahead to what is next.

But now your teen has a Provisional licence, what is next? The key is to stay involved – now is when your child is really learning to drive.

We know from research done all around the world that the best way to help keep your teens safe, when they are first independently licensed and legally they don’t require you in the seat beside them, is to stay involved. This is how:

1. Travel with them.

Many parents tell me that it is such a relief that they no longer have to travel with their teen. Hmmm. If you look at the crash statistics (see the figure – this same pattern is repeated in motorised jurisdictions around the world, not just in Victoria or just in New South Wales), your teen has just entered the most dangerous period in the driving lifetime. Being relieved that you are no longer involved is exactly the opposite of what we want. Jump in the front passenger seat when you both have the same destination. You will be shocked by how much your teen’s driving has changed. Keep travelling in the front seat on as many random occasions as you can manage throughout the first year of independent driving.

2. Set driving limits.

Graduated driver licensing conditions and restrictions, such as limits on the number of passengers and the use of mobile phones during the P1 phase, help keep your teen safe by reducing temptation that may encourage risky driving behaviour. You can also help by setting additional limits, such as limiting the number of passengers during the day; knowing the destination; requesting a text to let you know they have arrived safely and the anticipated return time, and no unsupervised night driving for the first month of independent driving. As your teens gain experience in driving by themselves, and as they show you that they can make good – and safe – decisions, increase their driving privileges.  If they show you that they cannot make good decisions, introduce punishments.

3. Share the family car.

My research shows that most young drivers have their own car, or exclusive access to a car, within six months of gaining their Provisional licence. This is problematic for three reasons.

The first relates to the ability to regulate their behaviour through driving limits. Parents may be reluctant to set limits when their teen has their own car, particularly when they have paid for the car themselves through savings. Parents may feel they do not have the capacity to monitor and guide their child’s driving.

Secondly, young drivers tend to drive older, cheaper cars and if they crash it, Mum and Dad respond, ‘It’s your car, too bad’ and ‘You pay for it if you want it fixed’. When young drivers crash mum or dad’s car, mum and dad care a great deal, and that there are consequences for their behaviour. These consequences will help keep them safe in their future driving.

Finally, these older, cheaper cars are placing young drivers at risk of crashing and being injured in a crash. We want our most inexperienced drivers in the safest cars possible, which means a car with crash-avoidance features like ABS, and crash-protection features, including airbags. Mum and dad’s car is more likely to have these features, so this is another great reason to share your car during the first six months at least of the Provisional 1 licence.


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Dr Bridie Scott-Parker, National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Research Fellow, Adolescent Risk Research Unit (ARRU), is an expert in the domain of young novice driver road safety. Bridie is interested in a safe systems approach to young driver road safety, intervention development and evaluation, with a particular focus upon the development of the driver from the pre-licence period, through the Learner and Provisional 1 driving phases. She is also interested in adolescent risk taking, and the influence of personal, social (parents, peers), and structural (legislation, police) influences upon risky behaviour.

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