How to keep teen drivers safe behind the wheel

My teenage son does not drive yet, but that milestone is looming in a few short weeks. When he was a small child I thought the decision that would cause me the most worry would be allowing him to ride in a car with a random assortment of friends’ parents, many of whom I did not know. I was wrong and I have the gray hairs to prove it.

Many of his friends now have their licenses and my worry barometer is experiencing a severe uptick. The teenage years are a time for parents to allow independence, but it is also a time to stress — and I mean stress to the point of not being that cool parent.

Teens do not yet have the skills that a driver with several years of experience may possess. Helping your teen gain driving experience and teaching them good driving habits will create a much safer driving environment for them and others on the road. Below are a few tips to help your teenager stay safe while driving as the summer comes to an end and the school year begins:

  • Don’t get distracted while driving. Put away the cell phone, don’t apply makeup, and don’t search for a song on your iPod.
  • Don’t drive with too many friends in the car. The more people, the more distraction.
  • Do drive with a purpose. Know the directions to your destination or have a friend navigate.
  • Do drive with your seat belt fastened. Require your passengers to wear their seat belts, too.
  • Don’t drive when you’re tired.
  • Don’t drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • Don’t drive over the speed limit.
  • Do be observant. Other drivers are out there speeding and drunk.
  • Do encourage friends to practice the same safety habits. If they won’t, don’t drive with them.

Following these safety rules will help your teen gain safe driving experience, allow for responsible independence and hopefully avoid giving mom and dad more gray hair.

Written by GiGi Rose, a West Virginia native who has called Nashville home for 25 years. Her professional background is in program coordination and community outreach.


Joy Perry

Parents watching an ultrasound of their new baby for the first time often have a rush of excitement followed by a wave of questions. What do these measurements mean? Is my child healthy?

When my wife and I received a referral for an international adoption, we had similar emotions and many of the same questions. We received pages of blood work numbers and exam notes from doctors in China. It didn’t matter that the notes had been translated into English; the numbers were mostly foreign to us. We turned to Dr. Alice Rothman at the International Adoption Clinic at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt to help us make the most important decision of our lives.

Adoption is a roller coaster of emotions. It’s difficult putting aside your feelings to make smart decisions. Dr. Rothman’s calm demeanor and heart for teaching helped us work through our concerns before the adoption, while we were in China, and after we brought home a beautiful 2-year-old daughter with a small cleft palate. We named her Joy.

We made heartwrenching choices when turning down a number of children before deciding to adopt Joy. One look at their sweet faces and we wanted to bring every one of these children home. Because we were adopting from a special medical needs list, the adoption clinic team helped us focus on a child who was the right fit for our family.

Like many family traveling for an international adoption, we had surprises in the days before traveling to China. Our daughter’s orphanage emailed a video and last-minute documents that had us confused and panicked. A grainy cell phone video showed Joy screaming at even the lightest touch from her caregivers and the new health documents conflicted with earlier versions. A quick email response from the clinic helped us take a breath and know that an experienced team of experts had our back.

Joy Perry

We scheduled an appointment with Dr. Rothman only five days after returning home with our daughter.

I’m certain we looked shell-shocked walking into the adoption clinic.

Every day was a struggle—and nights were worse. Our adoption home study and hours of seminars did not prepare us for a child who pushed us away with clenched fists and screamed for hours. At least we knew Joy’s lungs were healthy. Dr. Rothman confirmed that Joy’s other parts were also healthy and developing normally.

Having someone listen to our concern about bonding problems was a relief. Dr. Rothman told us that Joy’s constant switching of parental attachment was not unusual. Children in orphanages often form short-term bonds with any available caregiver. While there is no normal with international adoptions, Dr. Rothman gave us permission to relax and realize that most toddlers do peculiar things.

Joy is settling into a happier routine after four months. We’re no longer the strangers speaking a foreign language who took her away from her friends at the orphanage. My heart melts when a kiss on Joy’s cheek is returned with a kiss—instead of a shriek.

While we still have challenges, we are grateful for a healthy child and the support of the adoption clinic when we needed it most. We have become a family.

Rex Perry is a Strategic Marketing web producer at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He and his wife Donna welcomed Kaitlyn Joy Xingji Perry into their family on April 7, 2015.

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