You’ve been practicing with your teen for months and they’ve shown that they know how to operate a vehicle on public roads. Gone are the days of “pressing the invisible brake pedal” from the passenger seat, and your teen is anxiously awaiting the day they can drive solo – without your supervision. However, taking that step to solo driving can be a big one. How do you know that your teen is ready to drive alone?
Your Instincts Matter
It may seem simplistic to answer the question “is my teen ready?” with something like “do you think your teen is ready?” Regardless, it’s always important to start by asking this question. After all, it’s likely that you know your teenager better than anyone! The law says your teen is old enough for a driver’s license, but if you’ve put the time into observing them behind the wheel, you are most likely the one who will know if they’re actually ready.
Can Your Teen Navigate Tough Situations on the Road?
If your teen is ready to drive solo, they should be able to identify and react to common hazards. Hazards may include: poor road conditions, poor visibility, getting stuck, hydroplaning, being blinded by sunlight glare, tailgating, being stuck behind a slow moving or erratic vehicle, and wildlife on roadways. It’s of the utmost importance that you feel confident that they’ve had enough practice to handle these situations.
What About Distractions Inside the Vehicle?
However, there are also dangerous situations that can arise inside your vehicle. First and foremost of these is cell phone use. Your teen should be educated on the importance of avoiding talking on the phone or texting while driving. Additionally, disruptive passengers, loud noises, or passengers who need to be reminded to wear seatbelts can be distracting or alarming as your teenager drives.
It’s important that your teen knows how to handle these situations: do not take your eyes off the road and pull over to handle anything that must be dealt with immediately. Do you think your teenager will still handle these distractions properly without you in the car?
Does Your Teen’s Attitude Affect their Driving Habits?
Most teens deal with big emotions, and that does not change once they’re on the road. Does your teenager struggle with driving aggressively or speeding? If you’ve noticed this, they are probably not yet ready to hit the road on their own. But by learning to recognize the signs of a poor state of mind, they can take measures to ensure they stay safer while driving. Our Teach Your Teen to Drive curriculum covers the SAFER™ System of Defensive Driving, which can help provide strategies to cope with this.
Does Your Teen Understand Their Responsibility?
Before your teen goes out on their own, they should understand the value of their vehicle and others on the road. More importantly they should understand that they’re not invincible or immune to bad situations, and they are responsible for the lives of themselves, their passengers, and other drivers while they are behind the wheel. Do you believe they understand that?
Do They Know the Rules?
If you have expectations or family rules about driving, your teen should be made aware of them. If you don’t want your new driver going out past a certain time, or if you don’t feel comfortable with them having more than one or two passengers, write these rules down and ask yourself if you trust your teen to follow them.
Is Your Teen Ready to Drive Alone?
If you give plenty of thought to these questions and have come away feeling that they’re not ready, we recommend opening a dialogue with your teenager. Give specific reasons why you don’t think they’re ready, so they know what they need to work on. Maybe a deal can be reached where they get their license if they agree to only drive during certain hours or in certain weather conditions.
If your teen needs more help learning how to drive, try an online course like Teach Your Teen to Drive. By going through the teaching process with your teenager, you can feel more confident in their skill level before they set out on the road alone.