Adding Joy Into The Ride

Tips to help your teenager learn to drive

By Pete Alfano

It’s a rite of passage like the first-day children go to kindergarten or when they become teenagers. Instead of sentimental feelings, however, this one might send chills down your spine. Your child is old enough to learn how to drive.


Feeling apprehensive about turning over the car keys to your child is normal. You’re aware of enough stories about distracted driving, road rage, and other reckless driving behavior to have you pacing the floor when your 16-year-old gets behind the wheel and eventually becomes eligible to drive solo.


Another concern is increasing expenses.You may have to recalculate your household budget because adding a teenage driver to the family auto policy can cost as much as $2,000 or more a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen drivers under age 20 are three times more likely than other drivers to get in a fatal crash, and the main culprits are boys.


“As a parent, you’ll want to prepare your child to drive as best you can, which starts with driver education.”


But there’s no need to panic. As a parent, you’ll want to prepare your child to drive as best you can, which starts with driver education. Once children turn 14 in Texas, they are eligible to take the preliminary steps toward earning a license by enrolling at a public school, commercial driving school, or parent-taught program.

Enrolling in a commercial driving school, which handles everything from classroom instruction to behind-the- wheel lessons and a road test, can be expensive. Some schools charge upwards of $400. Less costly options include online instruction courses, which are popular and flexible, allowing young drivers to learn at their own speed.

During the pandemic, some in-person classes shifted to virtual learning, which included an instructor and scheduled class times. Parents who want to oversee the initial six-hour classroom education must first apply to the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration (TDLR) to become certified instructors.

Students who have turned 15, completed the initial six- hour education course, and passed the exam, may apply to the Texas Department of Public Safety for a learner’s permit. Be assured that before a provisional driver’s license is issued, students will have completed 32 hours of classroom education and 34 hours of behind-the- wheel driving and observing with an instructor or parent before their road test. It’s also worth having students take a defensive driving course that’ll prepare them for just about anything they may encounter on the road.

When students turn 18, they’re eligible for an adult license without restrictions. The goal by then is that they have learned their lessons well.


TEACH YOUR CHILDREN WELL


  • Be patient. It may be difficult at times, but the more patience you show, the more confident your student driver will be behind the wheel.

  • Have your student driver know where everything is on the control panel and how to access basics such as headlights, windshield wipers, and turn signals.

  • Find a mostly empty parking lot on a Sunday morning or afternoon and let your child get a feel for handling the car before you venture into traffic.

  • Don’t let your student driver rely only on the backup camera and blind-spot indicator. Teach them to be aware of traffic behind and around them as if they didn’t have the technological assistance.

  • Practice, practice, practice. It’s the only way your student driver will improve.

  • Once out in traffic, give instructions well ahead of time, such as making a turn or changing lanes.

  • Don’t turn on the radio. It doesn’t matter how well your student driver progresses. Keep the focus on the road, not the Top 40 songs.

  • Practice what you preach. Rolling through stop signs, driving above the speed limit, and failing to use your turn signal is only going to encourage your student driver to do the same.

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