Monday, April 17, 2017

How to Know if Your Teen is Ready to Drive

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Is your teen nagging you to get their learner's permit or to practice driving?  I started to feel like a mean parent when people asked her, "Are you driving yet?".  My poor girl would get red in the face and let out an embarrassed "nope" from her mouth. But we had some stipulations that she had to meet in order to get those keys.

Learning to drive is a rite of passage for teens, but I'm a firm believer that just because a teen turns 16, doesn't necessarily mean that they are ready to take on the responsibility of driving a motor vehicle. In order to even get her learner's permit, my seventeen year old daughter, Pip, had to:
  • have A & B grades
  • have $500 saved {our deductible}
Her grades were fine and she was working her way towards saving the money.  We decided that she could take her time as I was not ready for her to drive.  But was she ready?  Which leads to the question:

How do I know my teen is ready to drive?

To get fully comfortable with her being behind the wheel, I asked myself the following questions:

Are the choices they make in high pressure situations appropriate?
Reaction time is vital in preventing automobile accidents.  Split-second decisions can help to prevent damage to property, injuries, and death.  Judging this ability can be something as simple as their reactions to a glass of spilled soda on the table.  Upon asking them to quickly go get a towel, does your teen freeze up, run to grab the towel by the sink, or go down the hall to the bathroom to get a towel out of the linen closet?
Do they generally follow household rules?
If your teen struggles to follow the rules of the house (i.e. no friends over when a parent isn't home, obeying curfew, etc), chances are there will be issues will following your rules while they're on the road. 
How do they respond to peer pressure?
A teen's response to peer pressure is an integral part of judging their readiness to operate a 3,000 ton vehicle. Their ability to stand up to peers when asked to do something that is unsafe, illegal, or against the rules could be the thing that saves their lives.
Do they say they're ready?
This is an easy one.  Though it is definitely more convenient for us as parents to have our teens be able to handle their own transportation to school, work, and social events, it's also imperative that your teen is ready for such a big step. Which leads to the next question...

Are they confident and comfortable behind the wheel?
There's no point in even addressing whether or not your teen should drive is they don't feel comfortable behind the wheel. They should log plenty of practice hours prior to testing to get their license. This can be scary, no doubt. But many schools offer Driver's Education classes and there are many local driving instruction schools.

Do they obey traffic laws and family rules for driving?
Wear your seatbelt. Don't mess with your phone while the car is in drive. Follow the speed limit. Stay two car lengths behind bikers.  There are so many rules, both written and unwritten that drivers should follow.  Make sure that your teen is fully cognizant of your expectations for them. Some families even opt to create teen driving contracts.
Ultimately, there's not finite list to be crossed off in knowing whether or not your teen is ready to start driving. Using the concepts in the above list and your own knowledge of what your teen is capable of, you have to make the decision based on what's best for your family.

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