photo by Michael Carson

photo by Michael Carson

Show me a young adult driver who hasn’t had a car accident and I’ll show a young adult who doesn’t drive.

While this may not be totally true, it is the rare parent who has not had to deal with at least one accident their child has had while driving the family car. I have had literally an embarrassment of riches in this department. Among them, my three children have had eight, count ’em, eight accidents.

The first time my daughter had a car accident, I was at a loss as to what to do.  She had received her license a few weeks before and she wanted to meet a friend so she could study for her final high school exams. A few hours later, we received a call from her telling us she had an accident.  I found out she and her friend were going out for ice cream (which was not part of the agreed upon route) , when she turned a corner quickly and slid off the road, wet from rain, into a yard. She narrowly missed hitting a tree which the police officer told me could have killed her or her friend.

I thought the experience was lesson enough for her and did not punish her further.  She was a highly responsible and competent older teenager.

She had another four minor accidents before her father and I decided that enough was enough. Although she was not at fault for two of them, the pattern was  disturbing.   When the fifth accident occurred, I was so upset that I could not sleep and, lacking parental wisdom, woke her up at 2 am to tell her that, clearly, that she did not have the skill to drive a car, and that she would not be allowed to drive for two years.  She started driving two years later and has not had an accident since.

My son’s situation was slightly different.  He had two accidents, one minor and one significant, after which the insurance rates rose significantly because he is male and was found at fault in both of them. We would have had to pay an additional $4500 per year. His father and I decided that we would not pay the extra money and our son, who was attending university part-time, did not have enough money for insurance. As a result, he too has missed a few years of driving.

Both of these actions may seem harsh to some or not harsh enough to others.  When my daughter repeatedly had accidents, I was worried for her safety and that of others on the road.  I felt the need to protect her and others and not allowing her to drive was the only way I could do it.  With my son, we simply were not willing to pay the huge increase in insurance costs. Neither of my kids seemed resentful about our decisions.

Both decisions were not hard to make, but they affected us negatively as well as them.  It meant we had to drive our kids more places, although they most often used public transportation or their bikes. Our son relies on his sisters to drive him to our cottage, which means he does not get there as often as both he and we would like.

We are not alone in this matter.

Statistics Canada shows that from 2006 to 2011,  20 to 24 year olds had the largest number of car accidents involving death. In 2011, 268 deaths occurred in this age group, while another 212 deaths occurred among 15 to 19 year olds, the second largest group involving deaths.  In the same year, young men, 20 to 24, had 16.1 accidents involving death per 100,000 people,  while women of the same age had 5.1.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16 to 25 year olds, and alcohol and/or drugs are a factor in 55% of those crashes. And males account for 87% of the young fatally injured drinking drivers and 89% of the seriously injured drinking drivers.

So what are parents to do?  We paid for Driver Education for all our children and in addition we proviced a one day training session on skid control. Evidently, it was not enough.  So we withdrew the privileges of driving, rightly or wrongly. It was our best effort and the time off driving provided time to grow up.

What have you done in similar situtions?  Please respond in the Reply Box below.

 For advice on how to handle your child’s first car accident, read quad city mom’s blog: Your Child’s First Car Accident and How to Punish a Teen for a Car Accident.   

This article first appeared in the September issue of The Glebe Report. 


Lessons Learned, The Bank of Mom and Dad
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Join the conversation! 2 Comments

  1. Hi Patricia,
    My 16 year-old daughter just got her license. I am always nervous about her taking the car, but feel as though I need to let her become more and more comfortable with driving. However, your blog was a good reminder that sometimes we need to parent and make the decision they are not able to make and frankly, not driving is not the end of the world, but some outcomes are.



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