When pilots train they learn from a book, and then simulators, then by riding in the co-pilot’s seat. It’s a progression of information that’s built upon the comprehension of the previous set of knowledge learned.
Driving a car is no different. It is not recommended, and by Washington State Law not allowed, that children ride in the front seat until the age of 13 years old. This has to do with the bone structure and how it develops after we go through puberty; how the seatbelt holds onto said bone structure and the fact that in the front seat, in a front-end collision, the engine block is being shoved into the passenger compartment. This is a very safe, reasonable recommendations for keeping kids safe in a car.
If a child starts riding in the front seat at the age of 13 years, they will have 2 to 3 years worth of observation before they start driving the vehicles themselves...unless they’re looking at screens.
Years ago, we started putting DVD players and game systems into vehicles to keep kids happy and occupied. Smartphones, iPods, iPads, and all other handheld entertainment systems have followed those kids up to the front seat, once they were old enough to sit there.
The problem lies with the fact that they’re not learning from observation. The parents are probably not having conversations about the rules of the road and how to drive defensively to their soon-to-be-driving teen. The teens are not observing the parent’s driving and watching how they avoided a crash, or slowed down at the yellow light, like they’re supposed to.
We have a rule in our house that whomever is sitting in the front seat, does not get screens of any type. There is the exception for ‘Navigator’ duties, such as working the GPS or texting/calling someone for the driver, but other than that, no games, no texting.
Graduated driver’s licensing is helping to keep teens safer as they start driving on their own, but learning starts years earlier. We are their first teachers for everything, driving is no different. The next time you go for a drive, ask your 13+ year old kid sitting up front, “How’s the view?”