Teenage driver almost hit pedestrian

My son was driving with my daughter and almost hit a pedestrian. He didn’t apologize and said it was my daughters fault. How do I encourage him to accept responsibility not due to my anger or punishment? I feel like a horrible parent!

So traumatic, for all of you. Thank goodness no one was hurt. Your son could have ruined his own life and possibly taken someone else's. He is certainly correct that his sister could have distracted him, and you want to validate that. It is well-known that beginning drivers are easily distracted, which is why many locales restrict who can be in the car with a beginning driver.  

AND of course, it is still always the responsibility of the person behind the wheel to NOT get distracted and to drive safely, no matter what. Clearly your son is not quite ready for that responsibility yet. So you are certainly not a horrible parent, and he is not a horrible child. But you do need to step in to help your son, now that he has shown that he was prematurely given more responsibility in driving than he was equipped to handle.

I would advise that you stop him from driving for a while. Maybe in the interim he should take an online safe drivers course. Then when he begins driving again, he is only allowed to drive with you in the car, not alone with your daughter or anyone else, until you are confident about his ability to handle this life-and-death responsibility.

As far as your son taking responsibility verbally, most of us are tempted to blame someone when we make mistakes. I think he is probably shocked and upset and can't believe he almost hit someone. If he admitted that, he would feel like a terrible person. I think you just explain that he is still learning to drive well, and this near accident doesn't make him a bad person -- AND even though he was distracted, it is still his responsibility. As he matures, he will be able to take responsibility for such things without it compromising his sense of self.

Good luck to you,
Dr. Laura


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