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Should My Teen Drive to the Jersey Shore?

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

If you grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, you know all about going “down the shore.” Even if you’re a transplant, you can’t live around here very long without learning this cultural phenomenon. The best route to drive to the shore is often a subject of hot debate between people around here, too.

Aerial view of the Jersey Shore.

Should you take the Black Horse Pike (Rt 322), White Horse Pike (Rt 30), or split the difference and use the Atlantic City Expressway? Where do you get on the Garden State Parkway, or do you avoid it at all costs? If you’re going all the way south to the Wildwoods or Cape May, should you forget the Pikes and take Rt 55 to the Delsea Drive (Rt 47)? One thing I know for certain is that if you want to talk to someone about the best way to get to the beach, you should probably make sure you have plenty of time for that chat.

Ultimately, it’s important to recognize that the New Jersey Shore is a popular destination, and there are only so many routes available to get there. When planning to have your teen drive to the shore, be realistic about traffic expectations to set them up for a successful trip.

Plan Your Route to the Jersey Shore Before You Leave

While traffic apps are all the rage these days, it’s really important to plan a route to the shore with your teen driver before you leave. As the navigating passenger, it may be wise for you to keep an eye on an app just to keep watch for major slowdowns or accidents. But your teen needs to have some degree of certainty about the route in order to be comfortable with it. Also, traffic apps can be very distracting, which impairs safe driving skills.

Consider your teen’s level of experience while planning the route. Do they have a license? Have they done highway driving locally on Rt 309, Rt 611, or the Pennsylvania Turnpike? Have they driven in rush hour or high traffic scenarios with multiple stops and starts? Think about the travel route that will present the appropriate level of challenge to your teen driver’s current skills.

The route you end up choosing may not be your family’s standard route to the shore, but it will be fun to see a different landscape on your way down. Make sure that you and your teen study the map and brainstorm a few good spots for alternate routes if traffic does become a problem. The better your teen understands the map, the more comfortable they will be in a live driving situation. It will also help them develop a good sense of direction.

Support Your Teen as the Driver, But Don’t Forget to Be the Parent

Family road trips are fun, but they aren’t without their challenges. Driving to the Jersey Shore is a new experience for your teen, so make sure they are set up for success. Other family members in the car should be respectful of the driver’s need to concentrate. Check in with your teen regularly to offer breaks and evaluate their stress level. If your teen is getting tired or frustrated, they may just need a few minutes to rest, or they might need a break from driving for a while. Don’t expect to break any timing records on this trip. Take your time and help your teen get real world safe driving practice.

Car driving along the highway.

Keep using your coaching tactics during the trip as well. Even if your teen is now a licensed driver and has been driving independently for a while, this is a good opportunity to do a checkup on their safe driving skills.

  • Ask what color the car behind you is.

  • Present an alternate scenario after some action like a lane change or stop and review how they would handle it.

  • Talk about things to watch for on multiple lane highways like the Garden State Parkway.

  • Coach them through intimidating situations regarding other cars like aggressive driving, excessive speeding, and erratic steering.

While this is a family trip to help your teen get comfortable managing these new roads, your teen is likely to make this trip solo or with friends within the next three to five years. The safe driving skills you instill now will benefit them for a lifetime.

If you’re planning summer activities and a shore trip is on your radar, think about how you might involve your teen in the driving. If you’re not sure your teen is ready just yet, consider professional lessons with a Safe Driving Coach. If it’s too early this year for driving practice to the Jersey Shore, check out our course for parents to get ready for next year: The Parent’s Survival Guide for New Teen Drivers.


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