As the character played by Steve Buscemi in "Armageddon" said, "Embrace the horror". Be intelligent about this process. You can't avoid it, so don't show your emotions. Keep them to yourself or you'll lose your credibility, your negotiating power and just when your kid needs you to be confident in them, you're fearful. Stop it. Stuff the feelings.
Grab up your kid and go over to the DMV and get the drivers' handbook. Time to study. Pass the test. Get through that part first. Then,.they get the permit and it's time to learn and practice.
Make the decision about WHO is going to teach the basics. For the most part, schools don't offer driver's education. There are a number of businesses within communities that do this and there's no way to shout at you, but LET SOMEBODY ELSE TEACH YOUR KID TO DRIVE if you want to remotely like each other by the end. Let's face it, all of us adult drivers have developed unsafe habits. You don't want to pass these on to your kids because you'll never hear the end of it.
These teachers have no emotional connection, they "mean business" and they are not as "reactive" to the mistakes of beginning drivers. And, they've got those nifty cars with the signs all over them that scream "NEW DRIVER!!!" so that the rest of us on the road steer clear. Bless their hearts.
Also, when your "learning driver/kid" gets in the car with you, they'll be critics of your driving skills and habits. Don't shut them down. Confess to your bad habits and let them help you become a safer driver! Teaching and learning is a two-way street.
Now, let me make you laugh. Our state, California, at the time our son was learning to drive required 50 hours of daytime driving and 10 hours of nighttime driving. I had a spiral bound book where I logged, to the minute, his driving time. It took 20 minutes to drive to school He got 20 minutes credit, no more, no less. You'd thought the world was coming to an end. The screaming fights over my "to the minute recording" were epic. "Nobody else's parents are doing this!". When he'd start in, I'd become "Super Momma".
I wouldn't say one word. Not one. Later in the day, I'd tell him, during a moment when he was calm, "Listen, I'm following the rules set by the state. Dad and I want you to pass the driving test the first time and be a competent driver. Practice is the only way to get that job done". I'd shut up and walk away. He'd glare.
Every single time he "went off" on my Psycho Mom-ness, I'd say the same things. Yep, over and over and over and over because, and I know you know this, they don't hear it the first 50 times because, well, their brains aren't mature. There's mush in there. He passed the driving test the first time. I was so proud of myself because I didn't say one word about his rants.
What did my behavior teach him? I am ethical; I am integrous; I mean what I say and say what I mean and I am consistent, predictable and reliable. I will act in your best interest despite your behavior. I am a force to be reckoned with because I am your mother!
They may not like the car. Too bad. It's the one we can afford. It's the one we chose for you. It's the safest one. Pick a response, any response, but if you hear yourself saying, "Sorry, but...." stop talking. You're still in the position to "tell them" how life is going to be. They don't make the money or the decisions so be the parent.
As for protecting the family's resources, get an umbrella insurance policy. They are inexpensive and provide protection beyond the limits of coverage of car insurance. If, G-d forbid, your kid gets into an accident with major injuries, you'll be glad you have this expanded coverage.
Also, know that car insurance for a teen is incredibly expensive, especially if they're a boy. We had every discount known to mankind and our son was a reasonably-behaved guy with good grades. Still, it was $300 a month for years and years and years. He started driving in 2005. I can't even imagine how much it is now.
Find out the hours and conditions for driving so you don't accidentally help your kid to get in trouble.
Now, it's time to create the contract with your newly-minted driving teenager. Refer to it frequently. Review it frequently, but avoid overkill, or it will lose its power.
It may become a precious document to you as your teen-driver will take the responsibility of driving seriously and just may save their life.
Now, if you're of the mindset that your teen doesn't need a contract because "She's a good girl" or "He's a really good guy", let me remind you that their brains aren't mature. The really critical part of their brains that is involved in decision-making, social judgment, planning, impulsivity and rewards won't be fully mature around the mid-30s. Consider the facts:
- Car crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens--2013: 2,163 teenagers (16-19) were killed and 243,243 were injured...six teenagers died every day from car accidents.
- Every 15 minutes a teen will die due to drunk driving.
- 74,000+ young people die or are severely injured by not wearing seatbelt.
- 66% of teen passenger deaths are in vehicles driven by other teens
- More than 33% of fatal teen crashes have a speed factor
- For every milte driven at night, the risk of a fatal crash is 33% higher.
- One-third of all crashes are at intersections.
- More than 40% of teen crash deaths occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.
- Talking on a phone doubles the chances of an accident. It slows down a teen's reaction time to that of a 70-year old
- 20% of 16 year old drivers has an accident their first year of driving.
- Mile for mile, teens (16-19) are 3 times more likely than older drivers (20+) to be in a fatal crash
- Crashes are due to "critical errors" related to the lack of scanning needed to detect and respond to hazards, speed (especially for road conditions), being distracted by events in or outside of the car
- Most common types of crashes involve left turns, rear-end smasehs and running off the road.
- Head trauma has significant consequences. In 2011, traffic-related head trauma accounted for 1.9 million emergency room visits.
Now that you know...make the contract.
Just do the best you can, Claudia