The driver’s license process can be confusing for new teen drivers. There are a number of restrictions that change for teens as they grow older. The First Impact program is one resource that can help.

The program informs parents and teens about the Graduated Driver License Law, while providing strategies to keep teens safe on the road.

On Wednesday, First Impact held a virtual, informational event with Chris McBane, a St. Joseph Police Department officer, and Nick Koeteman, a local State Farm Insurance agent.

“The two major topics that we talk about are the Graduated Driver License Law — we go into detail about all the laws and how they apply to 15 to 21-year-old drivers,” said Deana Dothage, the director of First Impact. “The second piece of what we talk about is the risk that teen drivers face, and we also offer parents some innovative strategies to mentor and coach their teens to kind of minimize the risk.”

The Graduated Driver License Law has three parts. When a teen turns 15 years old, they are eligible for an instructional permit, which is valid for 12 months. While a teen has an instructional permit, they must practice at least six months for a minimum of 40 hours.

After completing all the requirements of the instructional permit, a teen may get an intermediate license at age 16 after passing the driving test. An 18-year-old is eligible for a full driver’s license.

These are only the basic rules. There are a number of restrictions, regarding the number of passengers and time of driving for each age, as well.

The law was created in 2001 based upon evidence of teen-involved crashes. The top three risks to teen drivers are speeding, distractions and impaired driving.

“So we talk a lot about speed and why it’s so important not to speed,” Dothage said. “The second is distracted driving, we go into detail about what some of those are — over and above just texting and talking on the phone. We talked about other distracted driving risks, and we suggest making suggestions to parents how to work with their teens to not have those distractions.”

Involving parents in the process is an important aspect of the program. Dothage said parents can limit risk if they are proactive in the early stages of driving for teens. Possible strategies are setting specific consequences and creating a driving contract.

“If something does happen, have a predefined set of consequences,” McBane said. “If this happens, this is what’s going to occur, if you get a ticket, this is the consequence. If you’re out past curfew, this is the consequence. Have those conversations ahead of time and let the teen know these are the rules. If you violate the rules, these are what the consequences are going to be.”

First Impact is part of the Think First Missouri program of the University of Missouri School of Medicine, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehab, based in Columbia, Missouri.

If you are interested in participating in the First Impact program, you can register for a virtual event on their website:

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