Some teens can’t wait to get behind the wheel, while others (ehem, my kid) have…
I have talked to Jenelle at length about how driving – much like a cell phone – is a privilege, not a right. A right that must be taken seriously and responsibly, and can be revoked at any time for any reason. With that out of the way, it's important to look for signs: how to tell if your teen is ready to drive.
How to Tell if Your Teen is Ready to Drive
Drivers Ed is a plus, but I've heard mixed reviews on classes around here – and they can be expensive. I'm confident enough in my driving abilities to teach my kids how to drive, but I also have my Mom for backup. Mom is a professional driver and has driven school buses, 18-wheelers, and almost any other vehicle you can think of. If you aren't 100% confident in your ability to teach your teen how to drive, invest in a driving course or enlist the help of a relative. In Arizona, a teen with a permit can drive with anyone over 21 as long as they have a license.
Do they listen and know how to take criticism?
Most teenagers get defensive rather easily, which is part of the territory given their age. However, your teen may NOT be ready to drive yet unless they can calmly handle your criticism about their driving. If they have a “know it all” attitude when it comes to driving, I wouldn't feel comfortable letting them get behind the wheel.
Are they going to follow the rules of the road?
There are many written rules of the road and unwritten rules of the road. If your child is great at respecting authority, they won’t have a problem following the rules. If you feel that your child lacks the maturity or doesn’t understand how following the rules keep everyone safe on the road, then it might mean they have to wait a while. It is better to postpone driving for a while than it is to potentially lose a child to an accident.
Are you ready to teach them the unwritten rules?
The written rules are in front of them in a handbook, but what about the things they might not think of? Like the fact that wet leaves on the road are just as slippery as ice. Or that going down a hill will cause them to pick up a lot of speed, and they should pump their brakes slowly. These are little things you learn as you are becoming a driver, and they need to know what to do in a variety of driving scenarios. You can teach them all about it when they get their permit, before they get their license.
Are they ready for road rage?
Road rage can get the best of people when they’re driving, and create dangerous scenarios for us all. When your teen is learning to drive, they may do a few unusual things and frustrate a driver or two. If that driver acts out and becomes belligerent, that can be a very frightening and dangerous scenario. Your teen needs to know what to do when someone is aggressively driving near them. Do not respond directly to the person, carefully watch their driving, know when to call 911: they need to know how to handle these scenarios.
Do they react well in an emergency?
Even the most careful and experienced drivers sometimes find themselves in trouble. Getting into an accident isn’t the only emergency situation that could come up while driving. They will need to know what to do if they see an accident. They will need to know what to do if they are in a fender bender. How well does your child hold up under pressure? If they are pretty good in an emergency, then it could be time for them to drive. If they fall apart or panic in emergency situations then it may not be time for them to drive. This is the biggest struggle I have with Jenelle, making sure she doesn't overreact to everything. I have to remind her to just breathe.
Parenting is hard work. We have to guide our children through so many different life challenges, and that can be scary – for them and for us! We want to be able to protect our children no matter what. Part of that is knowing what our children are able to handle at any given moment. Learning to drive is a wonderful rite of passage for them but it is our job to make sure that they are prepared to handle the great responsibility that comes with them getting behind the wheel. Ask yourselves these questions, look at the answers and use them to help guide you into a decision about whether your child is ready to drive.