4 Questions to Ask Before Your Teen Gets a Driver’s License

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Is your teenager ready to get their driver’s license? The answer likely varies depending on who’s answering the question. If it’s your son or daughter, the answer is an unequivocal “yes.” For you, the concerned and responsible parent, though, your answer may be much more deliberate and measured.

Indeed, the thought of your teen behind the wheel is a scary prospect, even though the day will come when you’ll need to let them spread their wings and fly (or, in this case, drive). Of course, some eager teens will be ready to get their license the minute they turn 16, while others might need some more time.

In deciding whether your teen is ready to get their license, you may want to consider these four questions.

1. Has Your Teen Met the Minimum Requirements?

The requirements to earn a driver’s license vary by state, but generally include completing some type of driver’s education course and an allotted number of driving practice hours. While young people in rural states can earn their learner’s permit as young as 14 or 15 years old, teens in more populated urban states may have to wait until age 16 to first get behind the wheel.

For example, New York has instituted a graduated driver’s license program in which teens must first get a learner’s permit before earning a provisional license at age 16 and then their full driver’s license at age 17. But before these teens are eligible for the provisional license, which only allows them to drive with a parent or another adult in the car, they must first complete a state-approved driver’s education or pre-licensing course.

Meantime, in Nevada, teens must be 16 years old, held a learner’s permit for a minimum six months, have 50 practice hours behind the wheel and completed a driver’s education course to earn their license. Ultimately, no matter in which state you reside, let your teen take the initiative to determine the steps they’ll need to take before earning that magical license.

2. Is Your Teen Financially Prepared to Drive?

Whether you plan to buy your teen a new or used vehicle and/or finance their car insurance, they should understand all the costs associated with driving. For example, talk to your son or daughter about budgeting for monthly car payments and semi-annual insurance costs.

Additionally, have them research some of the more common costs of driving, like buying gas and saving up for standard oil changes, repairs and replacement parts — this should definitely include a new set of tires — and then work with them to figure out how much money they’ll need to save to pay for these services.

3. Is Your Teen Mature Enough to Drive on Their Own?

Not every teen will be mature enough to drive at age 16 — and perhaps they still won’t be at 18 years old. But given that the cognitive functions in young people’s brains aren’t fully developed until their early 20s, it may be a wonder for some parents and state lawmakers alike why teens are allowed to drive at such a young age. Indeed, important life skills, like problem-solving, impulse control and developed attention spans, may not be fully ingrained until teens are in college. Scary, huh?

Knowing all this, you may want to hold off in letting your teen get their driver’s license if you believe they aren’t mature enough and ready to handle this important responsibility. Not sure how to go about this? Ask yourself some questions, including:

  • Does my teen typically follow instructions carefully?
  • Does my son or daughter give in easily to peer pressure?
  • Have they shown responsibility in other areas (completing chores, finishing homework on time and holding a job)?

Before you decide to hand over the keys, really take a step back and evaluate your teen’s maturity level and overall readiness with an objective eye.

4. Does Your Teen Have Basic Car Maintenance Skills?

If your teen plans to drive solo on the open road upon turning age 16, they should also understand some basic car maintenance tips. Beyond filling the gas tank, your teen should also know how to change a flat tire, check the oil and replace low fluids, among other things.

So before you allow your teen to get their driver’s license, have them demonstrate mastery of these skills. Ultimately, a teen who shows an interest in driving as more than just a means to get places to hang out with their friends is one who’s more likely to take the responsibility of driving seriously.

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