Tag Archives: bestpractices

When Should Your Teenager Get a Driver’s License? Not Before 18!

The later teens drive independently, the safer they become behind the wheel
The later teens drive independently, the safer they become behind the wheel

In the United States, we have a heavy driving culture. Millions of teenagers began driving throughout the country as soon as they’re eligible to take their driver tests, which is at 16 in most states, with the notable exception of New Jersey at 17. However, as is often the case when comparing actual practices to best practices, just because teens can legally drive from when they turn 16 doesn’t mean this is what’s best–neither for teens, nor for society. An analysis of the risk teen drivers pose to themselves and others, as well as comparisons of driving and licensing patterns in comparable countries around the globe, suggests the age for independent driving and licensing shouldn’t be 16, but 18. Let’s take a closer look at why together.

Teens are most likely to be involved in fatal collisions at 16

 The numbers are clear: 16-year-olds are more likely to be involved in collisions, fatal or otherwise, than drivers of any other age. Specifically, the IIHS chart above notes the rate of fatal crash involvement per 100 million miles traveled was 9.1 at 16, compared to 6.6 at 17 and 3.8 at 18. From 18, the rate of fatal crash involvement remained virtually constant between 3.6 and 3.8 until drivers reached the 30-34 age bracket, at which point the rate of fatal crash involvement dropped again to 1.8. I’ve written about teen crash involvement before, and while the risks are primarily related to male teens, this is a problem we need to tackle with all teenagers and all parents.

This chart alone explains why teenagers shouldn’t drive alone at 16. Simply waiting a year cuts the risk of death by 27%, and waiting another year until 18 before independent driving cuts the risk by 58% compared to the risk of death faced by a 16-year-old driver. To put it another way, if 100 16-year-olds were involved in fatal crashes in their first (and final) year of driving, it’s likely that 42 of them would have survived their first year of driving had that cohort of 100 drivers begun driving at age 18 instead of at age 16.

If we simply delay our children’s independent driving by a couple of years, they effectively become as safe as drivers nearly a decade older. We need to give them the gift of time.

Delaying licensing until 18 gives parents more time to drive with their teens

Besides the maturity that comes with having two additional years of life experience, a significant reason why teenagers are safer drivers at 18 than they are at 16 is because they have more experience behind the wheel. However, what we want is to give them supervised experience so they aren’t gaining experience while engaging in risky behavior (e.g., driving at night, driving with passengers, having minimal supervised hours, etc). To that end, when we require our teens to wait before obtaining their licenses, we can spend more time driving with them and modeling and monitoring safer driving tactics. We can take the time to choose safer vehicles for them rather than simply choosing the cheapest ones we can find because we feel pressured to reward them as soon as they turn 16.

Remember: teenagers driving in and of itself isn’t the problem; most teens manage to drive responsibly enough while under their learners’ permits or while taking their drivers’ tests to obtain licenses. The problem is that when teenagers drive on their own, there is a strong tendency for them to leave behind responsible driving habits and engage in risky behavior. The more time we spend driving with them, the more likely they are to internalize safe driving habits that they’ll be more likely to use when we don’t drive with them.

Sweden and Norway don’t license their teens until  they turn 18

Finally, it’s worth considering the practices of countries with significantly safer driving cultures than those domestically. Sweden and Norway feature two of the lowest auto death rates on the planet per capita (at <3/100,000 people, compared to roughly 10-11/100,000 in the US), and both countries also feature the lowest rates of child auto fatalities on the globe. What do they do to keep their youngest drivers safe?

You guessed it: both countries restrict the age of licensure for car driving to 18. Both countries allow supervised driving before 18, just as in the US, but neither country allows teenagers to get behind the wheel without adults until they turn 18, without exception. They have extensive driver preparation and training programs as well, and in Norway, in particular, it can cost up to $4,000 to obtain one’s license before all is said and done, due to the various safety classes one must take on the way to licensure.
What can we take away from all of this?

Driving is a serious responsibility, not only for the driver but for every other citizen who may be impacted by the driver’s competence. In Sweden and Norway, where citizens are less likely to die from auto traffic than in any other wealthy country on the planet, no one drives a car before s/he turns 18. There’s just too much at stake. On the way to driving at 18, teens get lots of supervised practice, take lots of classes, and need to prove their competence in a number of ways. They take driving seriously there. Here, we lose approximately 2,600 13-19-year-olds each year. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change the driving culture.

However, it starts with changing how we view driving, and how easily we’re willing to turn over the keys to our children. We can’t wait for the laws of 50 states to come together toward best practice; there isn’t a single state that’s following best practices yet. But as parents, we can take the first steps and make sure we aren’t putting our children in harm’s way any sooner than necessary, and not a minute before we’ve shared everything we know with them about safe driving. The stakes are too high to treat driving as a simple rite of passage.

If you find the information on car safety, recommended car seats, and car seat reviews on this car seat blog helpful, you can bookmark and shop through this Amazon link. Canadians can bookmark and shop through this link.

Car Seat Law Changes for 2017: California Requires Rear-Facing Until 2

Since the earliest days of this blog, I’ve written about how rear-facing is the safest orientation for children when traveling in passenger vehicles. Unfortunately, the laws in most states throughout the US are far behind best practice. In Sweden and Norway, the standard is to rear face until 4, and both countries enjoy the lowest rates of child traffic fatalities on the globe. In the US, in contrast, most states only require children to rear-face until 1. However, little by little, we’re making steps toward better practice around the country, and as of 2017, there are now 4 states that require children to rear-face until at least 2 years of age: New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and now California. This is great news!

Wait…why is rear-facing a big deal? What’s wrong with forward-facing at 1?

As a reminder, here are a series of articles on the importance of rear-facing and the safety benefits it brings children:

Why Rear-Face Your Car Seats Past Age 2? – A review of the safety benefits of extended rear facing.

Rear-Facing vs. Forward-Facing Car Seats: What Happens in a Crash?
 – A video description of the various forces placed on children rear-vs forward-facing.

Top 5 Tips for Surviving Extended-Rear Facing with Toddlers – Suggestions to make the process of rear-facing more bearable during an unbearable age.

3 out of 4 parents forward-face too early: Don’t join them! – A review of a recent study investigating patterns of rear-vs forward-facing in parents.

The Orphan Seat: 3 Huge Rear-Facing Advantages for Kids – An explanation of the “orphan seat” phenomenon and additional reasons to rear-face.

But if rear-facing until 4 or more is so important, why the celebration of states moving from 1 to 2?

Of course, rear-facing until 2 still isn’t nearly as good as rear-facing until 3, which is still not quite as good as rear-facing until 4, but progress often comes in small steps, especially in a nation with so many different people and ways of thought. If you’re reading this blog, you already know how important it is to rear-face for as long as possible, but the majority of parents in the United States or Canada aren’t reading this blog, and have no idea about why they might possibly want to keep their children facing backwards a minute longer than they’re legally required to. These are the folks who will be helped by these laws–as well as their children, of course. Because even if they don’t rear-face past 2, they’ll still have increased the safety of their children for another critical year, and given how much safer it is to rear-face than it is to forward-face, every year counts.

Bravo California! Bravo Oklahoma! Bravo New Jersey, and Bravo Pennsylvania! I look forward to reporting on more states’ steps toward better, if not best, practices around the country.

Which seats can I use to rear-face until 4? Most seats I see seem too small!
High End Seats for Rear-Facing to 50 pounds

extend2fit - 1    pacifica

The Graco Extend2Fit – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Clek Fllo – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Diono Rainier – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Clek Foonf – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Diono Pacifica – Review Here, Buy Here.

These are the five best car seats available today in the United States when it comes to extended rear-facing. Any of these seats will allow you to rear-face just about any child from birth until age 5, and any of these seats will also allow you to forward your face afterward for some amount of time.

The Graco Extend2Fit is the best value for your money if you’re purely interested in rear-facing for the longest amount of time, as it features the highest effective height limit when rear-facing. The Dionos are the best value for the money if you’re looking to maximize the time you spend between buying car seats, as both offer longer forward-facing usable times than the Clek seats, and also include booster modes, even though those modes aren’t going to be useful for some kids. The advantage of the Clek seats is that they’re as narrow as convertible car seats get, which means it’s possible to fit them 3 across in just about any vehicle.

My favorite seat of the five is the Fllo, followed by the Rainier and Extend2Fit, but you can’t go wrong with any of them. No seats on the market will allow you to rear-face longer than these 4, and since rear-facing is the safest position we can place our children in whenever traveling with them in a vehicle, this is where you want to be if you can afford it in terms of child safety.

Remember to pick up the infant insert as well if you’re buying one of the Cleks and want to use them from the day you leave the hospital, otherwise you’ll need to wait until your child has head control and can sit up independently. Similarly, if you’re buying one of the Dionos, make sure to pick up an angle adjuster so you’ll have a reasonable amount of room when driving or sitting as a passenger in the front row of your vehicle.

Four Great Seats for Rear-Facing to 40 pounds


The Britax Advocate ClickTight – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Britax Boulevard ClickTight – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Britax Marathon ClickTight – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Chicco NextFit – Review Here, Buy Here.

The 40 pound convertible seat market is packed, but these seats stand out time and time again. They all have astronomically high seat backs, which means that your children are all but guaranteed to reach the 40 pound weight limit before they need to be forward-faced. Of the seats, the Advocate offers the best side impact protection, while I think the Boulevard or NextFit are the best value.

3 Great Extended Rear Facing Seats on a Budget (i.e., at or under $150)

graco-mysize-65  contender - 1

The Graco MySize 65 – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Graco Size4Me 65 – Review Here, Buy Here.
The Graco Contender – Review Here, Buy Here.

When it comes to absolute value for rear-facing, you can’t get any better than the Graco clones, including the MySize 65 (which is almost exactly the same seat as the Head Wise 65), the Size4Me 65, and the Contender. In fact, these are my three favorite convertibles, bar none, under $150. I have all three seats installed in family vehicles right now, and between the three, the main differences are that the MySize 65 has more side impact protection and head support, while the Size4Me feels a bit bony in comparison due to the thinner fabrics used. The Contender only comes with one set of LATCH anchors and takes up a bit more space when rear-facing. As a result, I’d choose the MySize or Size4Me over the Contender if you can afford it. All three seats are great, however, and come with exactly the same height and weight limits.

Now that I know this is important, what’s next?

Please remember that you don’t need to wait for your state to legislate best or even better practices before you begin to put them into practice with your children, in your family, among your friends, and in your community. You can become an advocate for children’s safety and for the welfare of our youngest citizens. If you see a child unsafely restrained, say something! You could save a life, or at the very least, start a conversation or prompt a parent to think about what s/he’s doing a bit more carefully. Every action has the potential to make a long-lasting difference, and we never know where our influence ends.

If you find the information on car safety, recommended car seats, and car seat reviews on this car seat blog helpful, you can bookmark and shop through this Amazon link. Canadians can bookmark and shop through this link.