My oldest son just got his driver's permit...a milestone that has me a bit freaked out.
I should be thankful that Virginia is one of the states where the learner's permit age is on the older end (15 1/2 as opposed to 14) and teens have driving restrictions until 18. Still, the idea of my kid driving makes me nervous. I'm protective and the road is a dangerous place, even for safe drivers.
He had to beg me to let him drive me around the neighborhood. I told him, with my first line edits due next week, I couldn't risk my life or limbs. He laughed. He knows I love him. I did finally let him drive me around (after his dad served as guinea pig). I'm half joking here. My son proved he's a good driver. Hand-eye coordination, maneuvering skills and reaction time were great thanks to all the video game training his generation gets. A part of me is looking forward to one less kid to chauffeur around and to having someone to help with errands.
But I'm still nervous.
I don't care how mature a particular teen is, their behavior isn't always consistent. The fact that they often make bad decisions, are easily influenced or distracted by peers and are more likely to engage in risky behavior than their adult counterparts is all based on the fact that their brains aren't fully developed. In particular, the neural connections in their frontal lobe, an area critical to complex thinking such as weighing risk vs reward, are still immature. Research indicates that these connections aren't fully developed until about age 25 (a year or two sooner in girls). I'm going to cheat (since I have those line edits to get back to) and give you the links to several interesting articles explaining this aspect of teen brain development and it's impact on their behavior and ability to drive safely. One is from an NPR report that came out in 2010 and another was a Washington Post article on the correlation between the teenage brain and teen crash rates.
Okay, done reading? See what I mean? I'm allowed to be freaked out. Right? Sigh.
I know we can't keep everyone off the road until their mid-twenties. Still, every year of development makes a difference. I'm glad our state has restrictions on young drivers (before age 18), such as the age and number of passengers allowed, driving at night etc... I know there are adults who also have restrictions due to vision problems. But with teens, it's the split second decisions, increased rate of risky behaviors and increased crash rate that scares me .
I guess a mom never stops worrying.