It’s a parental rite of passage: The day your teenager walks out the door with the car keys.

There is good reason that moment strikes fear in the heart of every parent:

  • Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of teen deaths in the United States.
  • In Oklahoma, teens have more crashes than any other age group.
  • Twenty-five percent of 16 year olds either receive a ticket or are involved in a crash during their first year on the road.
  • In 2011, more than 269,000 teens were injured in vehicle crashes, and more than 3,000 were killed.

Over the past decade, Oklahoma has gotten serious about teenage driver safety. After instituting a Graduated Driver License program in 1999, the state strengthened the law in 2005 to the current structure, which allows teens to move toward full driving privileges in stages. Teens may begin driving instruction with a certified driver at age 15, and can receive a learner’s permit at 15 ½ (or 16 without formal driver education). After having a learner’s permit for six months and receiving at least 50 hours of training, teens may receive an intermediate license that includes restrictions on driving times and number of passengers in the vehicle. (Teens are 44 percent more likely to have a fatal crash when driving with another teen in the car.). After six months to a year of driving with an intermediate license, 18 year olds qualify for a full, unrestricted license.

And even then, parents are likely to worry.

Parents Central offers the following recommendations to parents to help their new drivers get off to a good start:

  • Start the conversation early. Talk to your teens about traffic safety before they even reach driving age.
  • Set the standard. Model good driving habits whenever you drive your kids anywhere.
  • Get it in writing. Write a parent-teen driving contract and post it someplace prominent.
  • Spell out the rules. No cellphones, no extra passengers, no speeding, no alcohol, no driving without a seat belt.

The best way to avoid an auto accident lawsuit is to avoid an auto accident in the first place. But if you are in an accident caused by the negligent or reckless actions of another driver, contact a skilled attorney today.

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