Getting a driver license is a rite of passage. Because of the way a vehicle empowers independence and how the license amounts to a badge of maturity, many teens look forward to this certification.

And you want them – maybe you need them – to be able to drive themselves to their many activities.

But before you hand over the keys, I recommend getting real about the risks of teen driving. Here are three sobering articles:

Basic Facts about Teen Crashes

Teen Driver Car Accident Statistics

Teen Driving

Probably the main reason for the shocking frequency of teen driver crashes, injuries and deaths is teens’ susceptibility to distraction. Most of them don’t understand how distraction happens or appreciate the potential consequences when their attention is diverted from the road ahead. I wrote this article for you to share with your growing teen: Distracted Driving – How to Save a Teen’s Life.

Also, few teenagers understand what “fatality” means. If they’ve never been close to someone who died, witnessed a death, or had a close brush with death themselves, fatality may be little more than a word to them. If they could appreciate that their death would mean the literal loss of their life, the permanent end of their conscious experience, erasing the rest of the life they could have had, they might respect the dangers of guiding two tons of machinery at relatively high speed among unpredictable traffic.

I know, my rhetoric is a bit harsh and dramatic, but considering the risks, I hope you’ll forgive me. Even if your teen’s driving is impeccable, they could still become the victim of a careless driver. This happened to my sister-in-law three days ago, when a man sped through a stoplight and crashed into her. He didn’t have registration, insurance, or a driver license. Fortunately, her injuries were minor. The possibilities of an accident escalate if your teen driver takes chances or drives distracted.

Here are some really smart suggestions: 8 New Driver Rules for My Teen

The key is for your prospective young driver to prove that he or she is responsible enough for you to trust them to leave your driveway in your car. This trust has to be earned over a period of years, not the week before getting the license. In the best case, you had that realistic heart-to-heart discussion when they were younger. And if you now have misgivings, don’t hand over the keys until their maturity and sense of responsibility convince you that they’re ready.

So I recommend that before you let them drive away for the first time, share the above links with your teen and have a realistic talk about the content. Your child’s life is at stake.

One of the most important signs of maturity is good judgment, something that doesn’t happen automatically as a child grows older. With the help of recent discoveries about adolescent brain development, we now know how to encourage a young person to exercise the thinking skills related to judgment during the sensitive time window for development of this foundation. In short, parents and teens can luck out of the equation.

This is the subject of my book: How Your Teen Can Grow a Smarter Brain.

Also you can improve the way you listen to your child, growing the bond between you. Download the FREE ebook, Listening to Understand.