Some teens can’t wait to get behind the wheel, while others (ehem, my kid) have fears that need to be worked through before they will even consider it. It can be tough to tell if your teen is ready to drive, especially when you're ready for them to get rolling! Or, maybe you're not? Make sure your fears aren't rubbing off on them! Most teens will tell you if they feel ready or not. Some start expressing interest before they are even eligible for their learners permit; though others may not ever mention it, leaving you to wonder why they aren’t more excited for this new freedom!
How to Tell if Your Teen is Ready to Drive
Jenelle turned 15 1/2, the age you have to be to get your driver's permit, and she had no desire to get it. She deals with anxiety so I didn't push her, but I figured when she turned 16 she'd be ready to go. She turned 16 a few months ago and we still haven't gone to get her permit yet! When I was 15, I wanted nothing more than to get in the car and drive. I got my license on the first day I possibly could! It's crazy to me that Nell isn't the same way but I'm not pushing her. I think she will be ready to get her permit in the next few months or so, as more of her friends get their licenses.
Are they scared? Are you?
Fear is often present in either the parent, or the teen – or both. The chances of a teen driver getting into an accident in their first year of driving is very high. Letting your precious cargo take off on their own without any supervision can be terrifying, even if you've practiced driving with them for a while. Some kids are scared to get behind the wheel, while others are daredevils from the start.
With age usually comes maturity, so don't push too much if they're not ready to drive yet. Eventually most teens have the desire to learn and gain more independence. Some may need some encouragement and maybe even a tiny nudge. There are some great teachers out there that are willing to help your teen learn to drive, too. If you already nervous or jumpy when someone else is at the wheel, do both of you a favor and don’t try to be your teen's only driving teacher.
Sometimes a hesitant teen may need an incentive to take the leap. Pointing out to them that they will have the ability to go to friends houses, social activities, or have transportation to a part-time job can be great motivators.
Are they mature enough to handle safety concerns?
Jenelle isn't quite mature enough to even consider driving, if I'm being honest. While she's great with babysitting her sisters, helping with chores, etc, driving is a whole different ball game. Some of her friends are definitely ready, while a few are like her and probably won't be ready for a while.
With so many safety features on modern vehicles, we have more peace of mind than we used to. Finding an older large vehicle made out of steel can often help us feel safer, too. Setting rules ahead of time will help ease some concerns you may have. Some state laws are good for new drivers. Limiting how many people under 18 can be in the car with someone who has their license less than a year is one example.
Creating a habit during the learning stages of driving, like using the AT&T DriveMode App, is one way to show your teen how serious you take distracted driving. There's no need for it. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to get in an accident! Distractions seem to be the biggest safety hazard for new drivers today… especially cell phones. Think about how often your teen gets a text. Those don't stop while they're driving – unless you download the (free) app, like I did.
Are they responsible enough?
Starting small and working their way up can be a great way for new drivers to build trust with you. Something as simple as going to the local store for you or running other small errands can be a good way to start. Proving that they can be a responsible driver is something that they need to know must be taken very seriously. Lives are put in danger when drivers are irresponsible.
Make a written agreement and have them sign it. If any item in the agreement is not abided by, make sure you have agreed upon consequences in advance and stick to them! Most teens, if given the opportunity to write this agreement of trust and consequences, will come up with harsher consequences than their own parents. Have this all done before a situation arises where emotions run high because they broke your trust or had you worried sick. What happens if they get a ticket, get in an accident, break curfew, or text and drive?
Have you practiced?
Driver's Ed, and practicing with you and another trusted adult will help your teen feel more confident behind the wheel. Practice will also help you have that confidence in them. You'll need to have that confidence in them before you hand them the keys and let them walk out the door.
Practice in all weather conditions, if possible. It doesn't rain very often here in Arizona, but before I let Jenelle drive in rainy conditions, I will make sure I practice with her in it first. I'm the type to be over prepared, so we will talk a lot about EVERY possible condition before she sits behind the wheel for the first time.
Costs add up quickly.
The cost of operating a vehicle can add up quickly. Outside of the initial purchase price, the maintenance, fuel, insurance, and cost of repairs all need to be considered. Insurance for a teen driver is expensive! Adding Jenelle to my insurance will literally DOUBLE my insurance costs each month.
Tickets are another possible cost to consider. Even experienced drivers make mistakes. If you plan on purchasing a vehicle for your teen, be sure to find out what the insurance rates will be on the vehicle before you buy.
For some families, it can be very helpful if there is an additional driver – especially when you're a single parent. I feel like I need to be in two (or ten) places at once right now and it's crazy. Running around to school and sports practices can take up so much time. These things always seem to make it more challenging to get dinner on the table for the rest of the crew, too. As your teen becomes more responsible, they can often help drive siblings around, too. It may be worth it for some parents to hand over a used vehicle for the sake of not having to drive kids around several hours every day. I know it's been worth it for me, even though Jenelle will probably be 30 before she wants to drive. LOL
Remind them it's a privilege
Remind your teen that driving is a privilege! It can be taken away in an instant. Driving is an amazing privilege that gives people the freedom to do so many different things. The ability to get in the car and go where you want, when you want, is amazing. Your teen has to earn this privilege a little at a time.