A Matter of Maturity: Is Your Teen Ready to Get Behind the Wheel?

Getting a driver’s license remains one of the most eagerly anticipated milestones of teen life. But years of disheartening statistics have inspired legislators and safety advocates across the country to question whether 16-year-olds are really ready to get behind the wheel.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States, with 36 percent of all teen fatalities occurring on our nation’s roadways. The risk is particularly high for drivers between the ages of 16 and 19, who are four times as likely as older drivers to be involved in a crash.

“There’s no way some of these kids should be driving,” Julia Rodriguez said in a March 26, 2006 article in the Boston Globe. “They turn 16 and think they have the right to drive. But we can tell them no.” Rodriguez’s daughter, Amanda, was killed when the car in which she was a passenger hit a tree – a crash that also took the life of the 16-year-old driver.

Rodriguez spoke to the Globe for an article that reported on an effort by the Massachusetts legislature to raise the state’s minimum driving age from 16 to 17½. The teen driving bill that was eventually signed into law by the state’s then-governor, Mitt Romney, didn’t include this 18-month increase, but it did add Massachusetts to the list of states that have adopted graduated licensing provisions as a means of easing young drivers onto the road in a more controlled manner.

Continue reading to learn more about keeping your teen safe while they’re on the road >>

Wilderness Camp Has Come to an End: What Do I Do Now?

Wilderness therapy programs are short-term, high-impact outdoor adventure camps for troubled teens. In the past decade, these programs have gained popularity among families and the media as catalysts for change in teens with behavioral problems such as low self-esteem, poor academic performance, defiance of authority, depression, and drug or alcohol abuse.

With average lengths of stay generally ranging from 30 to 60 days, wilderness therapy provides a safe, structured “wake-up call” to struggling teens who need time to re-examine their choices and distance from the negative influences in their lives. Many teens return from wilderness camp with a new appreciation for life and new skills to improve their relationships at home. But some teens need more than one or two months away from home to address severe emotional or behavioral issues.

As the final weeks of wilderness camp wind down, parents across the country are asking, “Is my child ready to come home?” At most wilderness programs, this determination is made based on considerations of family stability, academic progress, personal growth, and the resources available in the home community. After evaluating all of the factors, parents work with the teen’s therapist to decide whether the camper is ready to return home or should continue on to a longer term residential facility.

“Even though parents are often eager to reunite with their child after camp, going home isn’t always the best answer,” says Sandy MacDonald, clinical director at SageWalk, a therapeutic wilderness program for troubled teens ages 13 to 17. “Depending on the adolescent and the severity of his or her issues, two months in the wilderness may not be enough to change behaviors that have built up over a number of years.”

Learn more about the best ways you can help your teen once they complete wilderness therapy >>