Most people learn how to drive at some point. It’s part of growing up, a milestone that indicates maturity. In some states, you can get a learner’s permit as young as fourteen.
However, some fourteen or fifteen-year-olds are more mature than others. Probably some of them are ready to start driving at that age, while others are not.
As a parent, it’s hard to determine whether your teen is old enough to take this monumental step along adulthood’s path. Here are some considerations and ways you can decide if your child is old enough to start learning how to drive when they hit your mandated state learner’s permit age.
In What Kind of Community Do You Live?
Your first consideration shouldn’t have anything to do with your teenager at all. You should think more about the region in which your family lives.
If you live somewhere like New York City or another major metropolis, you probably notice that car accidents happen all the time. Some of them are probably quite severe, with injuries and property damage.
As the Bryantpsc law center notes, “life in the moments after a car accident are overwhelming-especially if you have been injured.” You don’t want anyone to go through that, particularly your fourteen or fifteen-year-old child. Let’s face it, that’s what they are at that age: still children, with their brains and bodies still growing and developing.
If you reside in a rural area, it might be more appropriate for you to teach your child to drive so they can get a learner’s permit that young. That’s because:
In rural areas, it’s more expected
There is less traffic, so there’s more opportunity for your teen to master the basics before you thrust them into high-pressure traffic situations.
Let’s say you live in Alaska, where a child can get a learner’s permit at fourteen. It’s a long way to the high school they attend. You probably want to get them that learner’s permit and license as quickly as the law allows.
This way, they have a chance to drive themselves to school rather than walking a long distance every day or taking the bus. It’s a convenience issue for both you and them.
Do You Have a Vehicle to Give Your Teen?
Another factor worth considering is whether you plan on giving your teen a vehicle once they get their license. If you know you can’t afford to get them a car, you can probably hold off on teaching them to drive a little bit longer. That’s because:
There’s no hurry if you’re not giving them a car anyway
You figure they have friends and other family members to help them get around
Your teen might want to get that learner’s permit and license as soon as possible because of the freedom they believe it represents. You should be honest with them, though. If you don’t have cash on hand to purchase them a vehicle, and they’ll seldom be able to borrow yours, they won’t exactly be free as a bird even once they get that license.
How Much Do You Trust Them?
A critical factor in determining whether your teen should get their learner’s permit is how much you trust them. You have watched this child grow up. You know their personality and what their values are.
If you raised them right, and you know they’re courteous, responsible, and respectful of you and their elders in general, you’re probably more inclined to give them lessons. You feel like they can handle driving responsibilities, regardless of whether you plan on buying them a car or not.
However, maybe you feel like your teen is not mature enough to start driving. Doubtless, you love them, but if you know they’re rambunctious or a troublemaker, you’re probably not thrilled by the prospect of them getting out on the road.
Perhaps They Can Prove Themselves to You
If you’re uncertain about teaching your kid to drive and getting them that learner’s permit, you should probably speak frankly to them about that. You can tell them about your misgivings and see what they have to say about it.
If they want that learner’s permit, perhaps you can work something out with them. You can assign them a list of chores to do for a few months. You can instruct them to clean their room every day, mow the lawn, do the dishes, walk the dog, or whatever else you see fit.
If they’re willing to do all that uncomplainingly, you can tell them you’ll teach them to drive and allow them to get that learner’s permit. If they follow your instructions to the letter, you might feel they’ve turned over a new leaf.
If they keep hanging out with friends who you don’t approve of, sneaking cigarettes behind the school, stealing your beers from the fridge, etc., these are strong indications they’re not mature enough to drive yet.
You’ll have to trust your judgment in this area. If you have a spouse or partner, you can talk to them about it and see if the two of you agree. Put up a united front, whatever it is you choose.
Whether you decide to allow your teen to get a learner’s permit or not, and eventually their license, you have to have an honest conversation at some point about what you expect from them. If you’re going to share a vehicle with them rather than getting them their own, you must tell them not to drink and drive.
You should talk to them about distracted driving dangers, road rage, bad weather driving risks, and illegal drug use and driving. Maybe you don’t feel like your teen would engage in any of these behaviors, but you never know.
If you talk to them about these things, they’ll know what you expect from them. It could mean all the difference between them becoming a safe driver or ending up a statistic.