Learning to drive is one of the most exciting rights of passage in a young person’s life. It’s a distinct symbol of growing up, and it also represents an exhilarating sense of unparalleled freedom.
That being said, it’s perfectly normal for parents to experience a wave of mixed emotions as their teenagers approach the legal driving age. On one hand, they are excited to witness their children blossoming into independent young adults; but on the other, they are nervous to expose their teens to the unpredictable nature of life on the road.
If you’re a parent of a teenager, you know quite well that these mixed feelings make it difficult to determine whether or not your teenager is ready to learn to drive. The truth is that there are many factors to take into consideration, and age is just one small part of the equation.
To help you better evaluate if your own teen is ready to get behind the wheel, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Does Your Teen Actively Want to Drive?
While most teenagers are eager to start learning how to drive the second they reach the legal age, some don’t express interest right away. If your son or daughter deals with anxiety issues or is simply fearful of driving in general, there is no need to rush the process.
Many who are hesitant to start will gradually develop the urge to learn, especially as their friends and peers start obtaining their permits and licenses. If there seems to be ongoing avoidance, try to communicate and isolate the issue.
A bit of caution behind the wheel is healthy, but it’s always best if your teen feels ready to embrace the privilege of learning how to drive.
Have You Talked to Your Teen About the Responsibility of Safe Driving?
Many teens view driving as an exciting milestone that sets them up for expanded freedom. While the ability to drive is often a gateway to fun times, it’s also a hefty responsibility.
Safe, cautious driving is the key to keeping all parties on the road safe, so it’s important that you help your teen understand the gravity of operating a vehicle. You don’t need to use fear tactics to get your point across. Try to talk openly about personal accountability as a driver as well as the risks of careless behavior.
Does Your Teen Demonstrate Sound Judgement and Maturity in School and at Home?
One helpful way parents can gauge whether or not their teens are ready to take command of the steering wheel is to analyze how their children deal with their current responsibilities at home and at school.
Does your teenager readily follow school policies and adhere to rules set in place by you at home? Does your son or daughter finish homework assignments and help out around the house without needing regular reminders? If so, these are all good signs that your teen is mature enough to adhere to important driving laws as well.
Does Your Teen Often Give In To Peer Pressure?
Teenagers are at a time in their lives when impressing their peers is quite important. While it’s a perfectly normal part of development, it can become dangerous when the influence of friends is powerful enough to cause someone to engage in risky, impulsive behavior.
Being a safe driver involves constantly analyzing risks and making critical judgement calls. Because of this, observing your teen’s tendency to be swayed by friends’ antics is a good way to determine if it’s time to consider driver’s ed. The more that your teen prioritizes responsibility in the face of persuasive peers, the more likely it is that this same will power will translate to the driver’s seat.
Is Your Teen Able to React Calmly in Emotional Situations?
While driving is by and large a positive experience, any seasoned driver knows that sharing the road with others can occasionally lead to trying circumstances.
Even when unpleasant feelings are justified, remaining calm in the face of stress or frustration is critical to safe driving, as becoming distracted by hostile feelings for another driver can lead to dangerous collisions and altercations. In fact, aggressive driving is listed as a main contributor in severe collisions by the American Automobile Association.
This is why it’s important to take your teenager’s temperament into account. Teens are known for being moody creatures, but if your son or daughter is especially hotheaded and quick to overreact, you may want to address that issue before road rage becomes a problem.
Is Your Teen Able to Focus and Stay Alert?
Between sharing the road with pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists, as well as navigating complex, busy traffic systems, drivers need to be on high-alert at all times.
Texting, conversing, eating/drinking and daydreaming are all common ways drivers become sidetracked. Distracted driving can affect drivers of all ages, but it’s especially relevant to those who are young and inexperienced.
While many states have graduated licensing laws designed to limit distractions for young drivers, it’s always a good idea for parents to think about whether or not their teens’ individual attention span can handle the focus-heavy task of driving.
Are There Reliable Driving Schools in Your Area?
Each state operates a bit differently, but most require teens to complete state-approved driver’s ed courses before they’re able to obtain their licenses.
As you think about getting your teen on track to start driving, it’s important that you have access to a reliable driving school that will safely teach your teen the rules of the road.
Take some time to read reviews of those who have taken the course-in-question, and talk to a representative about the school’s track record and commitment to safety. Another thing to think about is if the driving school has enrollment options that will work with your and your teen’s schedules.
Are You Ready to Teach Your Teen How to Drive?
If you decide that your teen has the right temperament and maturity level to start learning how to drive, and you’ve also found a quality driving school, then the last thing to think about is whether you’re personally ready to help your teen get behind the wheel.
Outside of driver’s ed, teens are typically required to log a certain amount of hours before they’re able to get their licenses. Ensuring that your teenager meets all of the state requirements and practices enough to become a skilled motorist can be time-consuming, so it’s important to make sure you’re at a place in your life where you can devote the time and attention necessary to set your teen up for success. Of course, if your schedule does not permit you to share this time with your teen, an accredited driving school will be happy to help.
Deciding when your teen is ready to start learning how to drive is a big decision for any parent. Balancing the normal hesitations with the desire to equip your teen with this lifelong skill set can be a difficult task.
At the end of the day, you know your teen best. If you take time to carefully ponder these important points, you should have no issue making the choice that’s most conducive to your teen becoming a safe and responsible driver.
Jake Zevallos is a Colorado writer who focuses on topics relating to safe driving and drivers education. He currently writes for DriveSafe Colorado, a leading driving school servicing the Denver Metro area.