Teens Driving Cars

Parent Q&A

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  • Hello Wise Community,

    My 17-year-old daughter got her driver's license a little over 3 months ago. Legally, she cannot transport anyone under 20 until she turns 18 in September. She is a good kid and generally follows rules. However, she's pushing hard against this one, telling me that I am the only parent who expects her to follow this law. Her friend's parents allow them to transport friends if they clear who/when/where in advance. She is particularly pushing to drive a teammate on her school lacrosse team to a game for which a team bus is not available. In addition to the state law, the school has a rule that students are not to drive each other to school events regardless of age. 

    While I appreciate she (reluctantly and with hesitation) asked me about this, my instinct is to hold firm to both the school rule and the state law. Am I an outlier here?

    Stay firm. It is not worth the penalties from the DMV and from your insurance carrier if anything were to go bad. You are not the only parent who follows the law.

    Pretty sure your insurance would be void if she got in an accident. No way is it worth it. We have an almost 17-year old who will be getting his license soon and we will absolutely abide by this law.

    You are not the only one -- we enforced the one-year rule for our son, too. Got the same complaints from him. Still held firm. It's so important for them to have that time to learn and be comfortable with driving before adding other young people to the mix.

    Like another respondent, I concur that holding firm is the only way to go on this issue. It's essentially another version of, "Come on! All the other kids are doing it..."

    Using both validation and firmness worked for us two years ago when our daughter was in the same training phase. We said, " We get that it's frustrating. It sucks that you have this newfound way to be helpful to others--but you're not permitted too. And we just can't take that risk: the liability for us is too great. Your ability to understand this and to follow the state guidelines and our own is what will give us confidence that you're ready for the privilege of using our car." If she continues to push, you could try a version of: "When you continue to push after hearing our firm "No," it makes us wonder if you're really ready to use our car. We'd hate to have to limit or revoke this privilege, but we would do that if we suspect that you're not abiding by our rules and the state law." I mean, you can add some loving words before, in-between and after, but that's the basic message--or at least it was for us. How much our kids actually sneak around this rule is another matter. 
    You might also want to check with your insurance company to see if they have anything in small print about your coverage being compromised if a minor driver violates CA state requirements and is involved in an accident. (On a related matter, many people don't know that their home owner's liability may not cover them if they hire workers who come onto their property that don't carry their own liability insurance--that's in the fine print--spread the word that people should contact their own insurers. We continued to hire workers through our gardener, but hired bonded professionals to get up on ladders or anything that involved a higher degree of risk than weeding.)  Good luck with your teenager! - Sarah

    Stay strong -- I had the same situation, though now, there is no need to drive anyone anywhere.  We talked about getting pulled over by police and insurance rates and said just tell your friends "sorry"

    You are not the only person following this rule. The only exception we allowed was a carpool to and from school. And the only reason we allowed that was because there was a parent working at home on the after school end of the carpool so we knew that they didn't take any detours on the way home. Stand firm and follow the law. 

    You're not the only parent following the state law.  <rollingeyeemoji> If I had a dollar for every time my kids complained similarly .....  

    The downside is way bigger than any upside.


    She can lose her license if caught.  Maybe THAT will persuade her. 

    I agree with all the other parents I would totally stand firm. I did not allow my son to drive with folks illegally and I wouldn’t allow him to drive anyone either. You know insurance companies, they could refuse to cover it if she was in an accident. They could also refuse to ensure her period after that. Plus I hate to tell you this but teenagers get in accidents all the time because they’re new drivers. She does need to drive and get experience but you don’t wanna risk her friends getting injured. Of course she claims all of her friends parents allow it - because that’s always what teenagers say! I’m sure there are other parents that are standing firm as well. Besides, you will have many of these discussions in the future and it really is OK to set a boundary.

    Stay firm.  My son doesn't drive but only can get rides with friends who have been driving a year.  Period.  No exceptions.

    There's a reason for that law.

    She shouldn't be starting her adult life by breaking the law, either, actually!

    Obviously a safety issue but another consideration: how you respond shows how you regard following the law. I think it is important to model that it is important to obey the law, not just when it is convenient. 

    This law is very hard for parents to enforce, because the kids will just stop asking/telling you when they have people in the car. The best deterrent is when all the parents of the friend group agree that their kids absolutely cannot ride with one another until it’s legal. That said, I know my son and his friends were taking each other out for lunch or going out after school when parents were not aware. The silver lining was that he told me that when he had kids in the car he drove extra cautiously- well below the speed limit, signaling, full stops, etc. because he didn’t want to get pulled over. This is a kid who got two tickets in one year while driving alone, so... Anyway, it will be an annoying year, but it goes fast. Try to get the other parents on board. Good luck!

  • How are Others Managing Teen Driving?

    (6 replies)

    Hello Wise Community!

    My 17-year-old is scheduled to take their driving test next week. I'm trying to figure out a reasonable approach to their driving and am wondering what others are doing. My teen would love for their father and I to purchase a car for them to use as they like, as they think this is what most of their friends have. They do not have enough money saved to purchase a car themselves. I am trying to strike the delicate balance between supporting growth toward independence and discouraging an attitude of entitlement.

    For context:
    My teen is mature and responsible, with like-minded friends. They push themselves hard in school and participate in school sports teams. They work a paying job during the summer, but not during the school year. 
    It is not essential that my teen have 24/7 access to a car. I can take them to school in the morning, and there is a bus home in the afternoon. It would be convenient for them to have a car during their sports season (Fall, which just ended) and for social reasons as their friends live quite far from us.
    My family could afford a third car; however, I work from home and can be somewhat flexible in when I need access to a car. If our teen gets their own car, my husband and I would prefer to purchase it so it is a relatively new car with many safety features.
    We have another, older, adult child in the home who shows no interest in getting their license, and who gets by using a combination of public transportation, ride share, rides from friends, and coordinating their commute into work with my husband as much as possible.

    So, my questions for you:
    What have your provided for your teen driver, and what do you expect from them?
    What advice do you have for me?

    Our kid profiles sound very similar to yours. We have a safe car that our 17 year - old can drive as a privilege, not a right. Few families provide free vehicles for their children in my kids' social circles. We reward safe driving, checking in with texts when arriving somewhere, are careful with freeway and night driving (more restrictions), and encourage practical getting around. Sometimes BART or the bus is just a smarter alternative. Also, college freshmen have restricted and difficult parking options, so you may be stuck with the car when your child goes to college. One more thing -- have you noticed how expensive your vehicle insurance will become with your new driver? It would be good to investigate this in advance. We were also late to the party in this respect as our eldest child graduated college before getting her license.

    My daughter and I have shared one car for about a year and a half. We live near public transportation which both of us are open to using as needed. I generally use the car daily, and during the day she takes public transportation, rides from friends, or walks. In the evenings/weekends, she may use the car for school or friend activities. During the summers, when my daughter spends many days babysitting, she has priority for the car because she needs the car for that type of work. I pay her insurance and gas. We just had a funny situation this weekend when I planned to drive to the grocery store, and she planned to drive to the movies. I decided the grocery store could wait until the next day, so she took the car to the movies, and then wondered why we were out of eggs and bread the next day (ha ha).

    We have four kids.  We added them to our insurance and they all used our cars when they started driving.  We didn’t have too much trouble working around our different schedules, but none of us needed to drive on a daily basis.  Our biggest issue was that we enforced the 11:00 pm curfew (required by law until one year or they turn 18) and one of our kids wasn’t too happy about that.  More often than not, she ended up getting rides from someone else, so she could stay out a bit later.  Now (two in college, two graduated), two don’t own cars, one was given a car as a gift from his grandmother, and one bought his own car and has his own insurance.

    We're still figuring out the details, too, as my teen has only had his license for about 6 months, but so far we're making do without the extra car - given how much more we're now paying for insurance, plus the difficulty parking on our street, a 3rd card just doesn't make sense for our family. I work from home with a pretty flexible schedule, so he borrows my car when he needs to stay late after school and will miss the bus, to get to sports practices, when he's going out with friends, etc. I like that he has to plan ahead and "book" the car and be responsible about it. In exchange for using the car he has to clean it inside and out periodically, which I hate doing so that's a win for me. I don't think most of our friends' kids have their own cars, although I'm sure it seems that way to teens who don't have their own cars. :)

    You are a very wise parent; go with your gut on this. Your child does not need their own car, and buying one for them could indeed lend too much to a feeling of entitlement. You can work out when, where and how they can borrow your car, set the rules, and stick to them. Also, they should contribute to gas for it. They can buy a car when they can afford to one so that they can appreciate its true costs and responsibilities. If you want to have a recent model car because of the safety features, by all means, get one - for yourself - and have that be the one your kid gets to borrow from you.

    BTW, I think they are mistaken: in my experience, most local youth do not have their own personal vehicle provided by their parents. Our kid has a bicycle, ride-sharing, and rides from her parents.

    Just FYI, we got our 16 year old a beater a few weeks after getting his license, and my insurance premium went DOWN by a few hundred per year because he became the primary driver of that car and just an occasional driver on mine. It also kept him pretty close to home :)

  • Teen driving expenses

    (13 replies)

    Our son just passed his permit test and the question of who pays for what has come up and he's not happy with our reluctance to pay for much, if any of it. The required driving class costs between $300-$400. His insurance is estimated at about $800/year. We have an older car we were going to sell but decided we'd give to him. It's probably worth under $6,000. We could sell it but don't really want him driving our other cars. He is upset with us because he thinks that because we can afford it, we should pay for some or all of the driving costs. We think he needs to pay so he understands that driving is a privilege and has high costs and responsibilities associated with it. Plus, he gets a free car. We're not in a hurry for him to drive. So what do most parents pay for these days? 

    We paid the costs for our son to get his license, and to put him on our insurance, because being able to drive is a fairly essential part of being an adult and required for many jobs, plus helpful to us. We would not have bought him a car, but after leaving home for a while he managed to acquire a car for free. We advanced some money for repairs, but he was paying the car expenses himself when he was out of school, working. However, when he went back to school, he couldnt work enough hours to afford to maintain a car. As he is now back living at home we ended up taking over the car because it is useful to have the second car and third driver. I only wish younger son, 17 would hurry up and get his license as we still have to drive him some places.

    My daughter graduated from college in June. We were glad to pick up the tab for lessons, insurance and gas, and we were happy to let her drive both of our cars. When she was a senior in high school, we bought her a used car so she could take it to college. What did we get in return? Someone who could easily get herself to sports practices, run errands, grocery shop and get herself to and from university. Oh, and she took me to the emergency room when I had a bad cut. 

    Well, you asked, so ... my opinion is that you are shirking a parental responsibility. Why don't you want him to learn how to drive? Do you want him to learn later, so he has less experience than his friends, or do you just not want him to learn at all? Are you hoping he'll just lose interest in the idea? Also, can't you just put him on your insurance for very little money? For heaven's sake, I don't understand this at all. Driving is such a critical skill in our society, and I would think you would want to be as supportive as possible, and keep as close an eye on things as possible. My opinion, which you did ask for, is that you're quite mean-spirited about this. There are many "teachable moments" around money and responsibility, but a driver's permit is not one of them. 

    I'm going to pay for everything (driving lessons and insurance) because my daughter is almost 18 and is really reluctant to drive. I feel like if I don't push her now she will never learn. I also feel strongly that learning to drive by age 18 is a milestone that needs to be met (like learning to swim, tie shoes, ride a bike) or self-esteem, and not to mention driving skills, will suffer later in life.

    I think splitting the costs with your son is appropriate.  He can earn and contribute towards his share, learning that receiving privileges requires taking responsibility.  It appears you have the resources to pay for half, which will help him learn these important life skills without putting too high a monetary blockade in front of him.  However expect lots of resistance from him if this is the first time you've required him to earn/work for these types of privileges. Good luck, be fair and stick to your guns!

    It depends on your situation. If your son has an income, he should pay for his expenses (gas and insurance). You are letting him drive the extra car which is great. If he doesn't have a source of income, not sure how he would pay for it (get a job?)

    I would pay for the driving class to make sure he had a good education about driving.

    I understand not being in a hurry for him to drive. Its expensive and can be dangerous. It is a privilege and not a right as they say.

    You are going to be responsible for his actions no matter who pays for the class & insurance.  I think you are being penny wise and pound foolish.  Do you want him to be a good driver?  Pay for a good class.  Do you want to protect your own assets?  Pay for the insurance.  Why are you throwing these huge roadblocks in his way?  Make him pay for gas & maintenance. 

    I guess my 1st question is  Do you not want him to drive? It doesn't sound like you want him to. Maybe you can figure out why thatis. 2nd, does he have any way at all to pay for any or all of the things you expect him to pay for? For our family, learning to drive is an expectation we had for our child- like learning to swim. It's part of the process of growing up and being safe and also independent. We paid for our daughter to learn to drive and spent the many hours necessary to ensure the was a safe driver. It was an investment. We let her drive our cars on her own once we thought she was a safe driver. She paid for her gas and any parking tickets. We are paying for her insurance until she has the capacity to earn enough money to possibly do that. She can't earn enough money being a Camp counselor and babysitting to pay for insurance AND gas and clothes, and socializing. My 2cents

    I would emphasize safety, not money, especially if money is not an issue. Is he responsible? Does he make good grades? Does he have nice friends? Then I would just pay for the classes, insurance, gas, maintenance, etc. As long as he follows the rules and drives safely. 

    Have some consequences in place if he gets a ticket, does not return the car as expected, or uses the car in any unacceptable way. 

    I would also make sure that he gets some experience working. But if you have enough money, let him have his earned money to spend and save. 

    So glad you are making him pay much of this!  Agree totally! It IS a privilege!

    Did you talk about who would pay expenses before he took the written test to get his permit?  Does he have a way to earn money?  The permit is good for a year, so even if you aren't in a hurry for him to drive, if he doesn't pass the driving test before the year is up, he will have to take the written test again.  To me, there is a difference between the costs of learning to drive and the costs of owning or driving a car.  I tend to expect parents to pay for educational costs.  Although driving is a privilege, it can also be considered a useful life skill and we felt that it was important for our kids to know how to drive before they went to college and we paid for them to learn, three down and one to go.  We have tended towards paying for them, as needed, through college, although they haven't all had cars while away.  After college, they cover their own expenses.  Other people we know have insisted that their kids pay for their own insurance and other car costs right from the start.  I think you'll find a range of responses.

    Purely my opinion and experience on this issue.  I believe that this issue would depend on the maturity and responsibility of the teen and if they're doing what they're suppose to.  For example, my son always wanted a car once he turned of legal age and while he had his license, he never showed enough responsibility in saving any money and even going to school on a daily basis.  We even tried motivating him to graduate from high school with a promise of a car.  Unfortunately, it went in one ear and out the other.  He finally graduated high school after 6 years and just a kid who was feeling a bit entitled rather than working hard and learning responsibility.  So, when he got a job (he was never very committed to anything), we made an agreement that if he stays committed to the job for at least 3 months, we would give him my old car, well, he stayed for 3 months and then on the day to that month, he quit and still expected the car with no money saved.  He finally got the car, but due to his immaturity level and about to be 21, the car is in his name, insurance and maintenance is his responsibility.  I did this mainly because I couldn't trust him to be responsible.  My point is that not every teen is the same and there isn't a manual on what is right or wrong.  You know your child better than anyone .  If my child was responsible, I absolutely would help out as long as he was making an effort to be responsible, independent and paying for half of maintaining a car.   I think it's important for teens to know what owning a car is entailed.... gets them ready for life!  In addition, responsibility plays such a huge part of driving these days due to all of those distractions such as cell phones.

    Jeez, the other responses you got kind of annoyed me so I thought I would share my experience and advice. First of all, you are not mean-spirited nor shirking your parental duties by wanting your son to pay for some or all of his driving which I agree is "a privilege and has high costs and responsibilities associated." Please ignore that judgy post. I think a lot of it has to do with the family experience--you asked what most parents are doing, but we all have different situations. If you live in the hills as many of my daughter's friends do, it seems like the parents can't wait for the kids to get their licenses so they can drive themselves (maybe parents are shirking their carpooling/taxi driver duties?) We live close to school and to BART and my daughter goes everywhere she wants and hasn't needed to drive yet. (She is 17.) I don't agree that driving is a necessary skill like swimming (my daughter is a lifeguard!) but it certainly can be useful. For us, we plan on paying for our daughter's driver's ed class so we know she is well-informed and gets solid practice. If/when she starts using the family car, she will be expected to pay for her own gas and if she damages the car she would pay for that expense. I would NEVER pay for my child's parking tickets as others have noted. Insurance is a tough one as it really is a lot--if you can afford it, I would cover it now and gradually share the expense with him over time (e.g. $800/$0 the first year, $600/$200 the second year) until you can launch him into paying for himself. Good luck!

  • my kids are the ages of 15,19 & 20. Back when my son was 16 (is the age of 20 now) he wasn't able to go for his permit until he had his eyes checked because he needed glasses, but at the time my ex husband was responsible for providing insurance for him my by court so long story short he wasn't able to get his permit till age 18 and to make it fair I made my middle child (is the age of 19 now) wait to get her permit till she was of the age 18 as well, but however she has taking her drivers test before my son who is currently 20. Now that my youngest daughter is turning 16 in two months she has been bugging to let her get her permit as she is the oldest in her grade and all she has every talked about growing up is the day she would be able to drive and she keeps coming up to me with written out plans on how it is fair she gets her permit at 16 keep it from my other two children but have to wait till after 18 to go for her drivers test and, I thought about it for a little but that would involve her renewing her permit two times, she also keeps bringing up the fact her sister went for her license at age 18 but her brother has yet to and he is 21. I feel bad making her wait because I know how bad she really wants it and it would help having another driver in the house as my other two kids are away at college and I work a lot, I'm not quite sure what to do, I want to allow her to but I don't want my other two children to be mad at me for it, any advice?

    Frankly, I do not think it is fair what you are doing.  Each kids' situation is different, and unless there is an across the board insurance situation, or other rule you are following that would make a difference, I think you have to assess each situation on its own merits.  Way back in the day a younger daughter wasn't supposed to get married before all her older sisters....also not fair! Things have a way of evening out over time, and at some point, it is also OK to do what works better for you! ;-)

    Let the girl proceed with getting her permit.  My daughter is 25 and has still not closed the loop on getting it! 

    Sounds like your others are away at college, so that reduces the sibling competition.

    I don't see how it hurts the other two kids if you let this one get her permit earlier than they did.  If you really think it will bum them out, maybe call them up and explain that you'd like to let their sister get her permit earlier than they were able to get theirs, because it would really help you if she could drive herself, and you hope they understand and are OK with it.   You could even tell them you'd like to get them a present to make it up to them and give them some cash or something.  I think you made a mistake making the middle child wait and there is no reason to compound it. My husband and I have a total of four kids between us and each one could tell you a story about how the other three got something they didn't or he or she was forced to do something the others didn't have to do.  There's no way you can make things totally even.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Learning to Drive Restrictions on New Drivers Parental Rules & Guidelines When Should Teens Start Driving? Parents' Anxiety about Teen Drivers

Questions about New Drivers

What kind of car is best for teen learning to drive?

June 2013

Our teen is not yet old enough to drive, however, we need a new car and are considering what might work best for our current needs (a crossover of some sort) as well as what our son might be using in a few short years as his first car to drive. (Our second car is a small sedan, so that is also a possibility)What did your teen learn to drive in? If you could rewind, (and you needed to get a new car anyway) would you change the type of car that gave your kid a taste of the open road? Thanks! Staring at 16

Consumer Reports lists new and used cars that are good for teens. Basically they favor sedans, wagons and small SUVs with as many safety features as possible, especially stability control. For new drivers in urban areas smaller cars are good. My friend's children and my son started with small wagons. My son's friends mostly started with small sedans. Anon

Depending on what decade you're talking, an older car may have fewer airbags but be more solidly built (less plastic and aluminum in the body). Insurance should be less on an older car, especially if you don't carry collision insurance on it and your insurance has a high deductible. And with an old car you'll probably care a lot less about the inevitable dings or scratches. My husband thought that $500 was sufficient cash in the kid's saving account in case of a repair, and we added the kids to our AAA road service account.

You might like to look at the AAA parent/teen driving agreement. It's a start for a good conversation. http://www.aaa.com/automotive/TrafficSafety/parent-teen-driving-agreement.pdf My own mom put a sobering sticker on the dashboard of her car that said, ''You are driving a lethal weapon.''

Just FYI, our high school kids did not get to drive our family cars unless they paid the car insurance increase they caused. One chose to, one chose not to. When they turned 18, they each got their own ''nonowner liability insurance'' (which we paid through college), and when they moved out, they were excluded from our car insurance policy. Hope that helps some.

Not taking the driving test in car with a stick

May 2013

My son is going to take is going to take his drive test at DMV. He practiced his driving skills with my car which has a stick. However, I would like to improve his chances of success and have him take the test with an automatic car (as to me, I failed the test the first time because I had a car with a stick and passed the second time because I switched with an automatic car). The problem is that neither me nor his dad has an automatic car and we don't have relatives around to lend us one for the test. What can he do in this case? He knows how to drive an automatic because he had a few classes with an instructor. Any advice is well appreciated. Marie

Your driving school may allow you to use their car for the test. You may need to pay for another lesson and have the lesson conclude at the DMV. I took my test this way.

As a parent of a 17 y.o., I think I can understand your wanting to increase your son's chances of success, generally speaking. As someone who drove professionally in the Bay Area for years, I don't think having him pass the test the first time is in harmony with that. If he were studying to be a surgeon or a pilot, would you try to get him the easy test so he could pass without having mastered the skills he will need every day? Driving a car well and safely involves a complex combination of skills and maturity which, studies have shown, teenagers don't have. If he is going to drive a stick, he should test with a stick. If he fails his first road or written test, let him work on his skills (and take public transportation, walk, etc.) until he improves enough to earn a drivers license and join the hundreds of thousands of crazy drivers already on Bay Area roads. Look at the statistics on teen drivers, accidents, deaths. For a teenager, simply having a passenger in their car increases the risk of having an accident 44%. Pardon my intensity on the subject, but I think it's too serious a thing to try to rush. Another driver on the road

We were in the same situation---we had only one car with a stick. We paid the Driving School for our son to use their car for the test. We made an appointment (at the suggestion of the Driving School) at the DMV near the Oakland Colliseum. Then we paid for a lesson, ending with our son taking the test. The lesson was similar to the driving test, in the same neighborhood. It ended successfully so I can recommend it!

Both my kids failed the DMV driving test

April 2013

Both of my children who are now in their twenties failed the DMV driving test each 3 times.it is usually for nitpicky things and I think they are good drivers.Are some places easier for passing the test than others?They failed the tests in Davis,El Cerrito and Vallejo. Chauffeur mom

Hmm, failing three times seems problematic. I would suggest they take some additional lessons and get feedback from the driving school about where they're having problems. The school can also suggest if there are better DMVs.

Both of my kids passed their driving tests first time at El Cerrito. Your kids aren't very good drivers if they have failed three times. Those 'nitpicky' things are important. My kids each drove a lot with parents in the car and took few lessons with a driving instructor. It's the same test at every location.

What steps are needed to drive?

April 2010

What's steps are needed for a teenager to learn to drive? mom of new driver

Kids and the Law from the State Bar of California will answer your questions about getting a driver's license -- and much, much more. http://www.calbar.ca.gov/calbar/pdfs/cbj/2007-Kids-Law-English.pdf

Teens Driving With Other Teens

Nov 2009

Our 16 year old son has recently started getting rides from other teen drivers at night to various activities. The other teens are under the age of 18. We have had a number of discussions about the inappropriateness of this behavior (illegal and potentially dangerous). While he claims he will not do it again (and not sure I believe him)...he also thinks we are being ridiculous since ''everyone else does this all the time.'' I am curious what others think...and how often does this actually happen? What boundaries do you set with your teen? Concerned parent

As with most of these replies, the degree of worry depends on your kid. It does seem like the kids all drive each other around. We made it clear to my daughter that we don't want her to do this, however, I know that it still happens sometimes. If she doesn't flaunt it and it's very local, I turn a blind eye but I've stressed that if she gets caught she could lose her license, a threat that seems to cut down on the instances. Her friends seem like safe drivers and we've had several discussions re not being in anyone's car of any age if they've had a drink (another hot topic). My husband would take a firmer stance...but he never notices! So far, it hasn't been worth an argument to me. anonymous

We told our kids not to drive illegally with their friends, period -- and if they told us everyone was doing it we just stared at them until they came up with something relevant.

I'm sure my kids did it more than once... but hopefully not without thinking of the consequences. One of my kids' friends had an accident & his parents didn't mention to the insurance company that he was driving, or that he had friends in the car. I don't know what I would have done, but I would have told the truth, told the parents of the other kids... and either asked them to help pay for the damage, or just have taken the keys until my kid earned driving privileges again.

I also committed myself to telling parents if I saw their kids driving with other kids, or driving recklessly, or (for that matter) riding bikes without helmets. If you commit to always doing it its not such a big thing --- ''I saw Tom and his friends downtown today, I didn't realize he had a full license already.'' or ''Did you know Joe rides his bike around with his helmet hanging off the handlebars?'' Do I feel badly for the kids? I'd feel worse if they were dead and I hadn't said anything.

Yes. Its pretty old fashioned...like the days when parents worked together to get their kids to 18 alive and well. Please don't listen to ''all the other kids do it'' when the other choice is to do what you wish other caring parents would do for you and your teen. I would want to Know

The California State Bar has some terrific publications for parents and teens about the legal issues involved in parenting and coming of age. They address driving issues, and a lot more. Download them and make your kid read them. The link to them is here: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/state/calbar/calbar_generic.jsp?cid=10180=17523 Mom and Legal Eagle

Unfortunately this is perpetuated by parents who are willing to look the other way or have invented variations of the law that are in fact false: i.e. ok to drive your friends during the day, only one other kid, driving only 'safe' routes, my teen is a 'safe driver' so the law doesn't apply, etc. Not sure why these parents feel that laws are only for guidance and are open to interpretation but it sends a clear message to their kids and creates a hazard for all. Just check accident/fatality rates for teenaged drivers with other kids in the car.

We made it very clear to our son that such violations would not be tolerated nor was he allowed to ride with other teen drivers. We were willing and did provide legal, adult transportation, on demand if needed. Failure to comply would result in loss of driving privileges. There isn't anything to argue about, follow the rules or you don't drive. I'm the parent, my kids are not in charge. i also stop at stop signs

I agree that this happens too much. However, I wanted to point out a misconception in the original post. Teen drivers under the age of 18 can legally drive other teens if they have had their license a full 12 months. Nobody 16 years old falls into this category (since 16 is the minimum age for a license), but many 17-year-olds do. You may want to set stricter rules, but that is what the law in California says. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/dl/dl_info.htm#FIRSTYEAR R.K.

Does your Teen follow the Provisional License Law?

December 2006

Are parents just not informed or are they deliberately ignoring the provisional license restriction? Teen drivers under 18 are not allowed to drive with their friends without an adult driver in the car for a year. (It used to be 6 months but as of 1/1/06 it went up to a year.) They are also not allowed to drive past 11 p.m. as of 1/1/06.

But time and again I see new drivers transporting their young friends (not within the parameters of the exceptions\xc2\x94 to the provision) \xc2\x96 and what amazes me is that they do it with their parent\xc2\x92s permission. I\xc2\x92m even told by parents that they believe their teen driver is safer\xc2\x94 with a companion! Or what can I do? They\xc2\x92re going to do it anyway.\xc2\x94

While I know it\xc2\x92s not easy to enforce completely, but if all parents toed the line of the law it would certainly be easier. Technically the cops could issue a fine of $35 to $50 and 16-24 hours community service, but apparently that is not being enforced even at that minor level (and all the kids know it.)

CA made this law to save lives. Parents who are allowing their teen to violate this law is beyond reason to me \xc2\x96 this goes for both the driving teens and the ones allowed to be passengers. Will we as a community have to experience a serious accident or death to have it hit home? We\xc2\x92ve spent sixteen years keeping our kids safe in cumbersome car seats and seatbelts, when I\xc2\x92m sure many of us grew up without such precautions when we got into cars. Why stop short of the goal of keeping our teens safe now? What do other parents think?

Am I the only one that feels this way?

You are not the only one to follow the law, and I encourage you to do so no matter what anyone else does or says (we grownups are above peer pressure, right?). My daughter didn't get her license until 17 1/2, so by 18 she was just about ready to drive with company.... she did drive her friends a couple of times before she was 18, but I'm not meant to know that ---- and she did so in a manner so cautious that I would likely not have found out, if her friends didn't leave trash in the car. I was also annoyed when one of my kids rode with a friend. It was my policy to call the parents of my daughter's friends and mention that my kid had gotten a ride home, or I'd seen their kid driving, and didn't realize s/he'd had her/his license long enough. Half of them responded, half didn't.

For me the hardest moment was putting her in a car with a less experienced, but 18 year old driver. In Berkeley, where busses are an option, there are very few good excuses to drive illegally, at 16 or 17.

As for parents who let there kids break this law for the most common reasons (tired of having the argument, don't want to drive the kids yourself) I have very little respect for them. In the case of my kids' friends... I don't think their teenagers have much respect for them either.

By the way -- the next thing that happens is that they all want to be the one to drive the group, except when they are going out to party...when they suddenly all want to ride instead. I was always (secretly) happy to see they were ''designating'' drivers...but would rather none of them was drinking illegally, either. I could never prove anything was going on, and now they are all off in college....

Be strong. Your insistence is what gives your kid the ''excuse'' to do the right thing, when friends are urging her to do something else Anonymous for Kids' Sake

My kid IS following the law, but I have to say I find it ridiculous. She's had her license for 6 months now and is a careful driver. The fact that she can't drive a friend means that essentially she doesn't drive very much. This means that it's going to be another six months before she drives frequently, by which point she will be one year from what she learned in driver's training. I don't really see how this is going to be helpful. I DO agree with waiting 6 months to drive friends. I wouldn't mind if she couldn't drive after 11 until she's 21. But I do think that after having her license for 6 months, she should be allowed to drive friends around. But she isn't
Law-abiding but resentful

I have heard that your insurance company may not pay a claim if you are violating this law. This could have horrendous consequences
teen driver parent

New Driving Restrictions for Teens (Jan 2006)

January 6, 2006

For those who haven't alread heard, there are two important changes to California's provisional driver's license rules as of Jan. 1, 2006. These apply to ALL drivers under the age of 18, including those who already have their license. So some kids will have to stop carrying teen passengers now, even if they could legally do so before.

1. Prohibits a provisional licensee from carrying passengers under the age of 20, unless accompanied by a licensed parent/guardian, licensed/certified instructor or a licensed driver 25 years of age or older, during the first 12 months (formerly six months) the driver is licensed .

2. Prohibits a provisional licensee from driving between the hours of 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. (formerly 12 midnight and 5 a.m.).


Is the new law retroactive?

Jan 2006

Is it true that the new law that just came into force prohibiting teens from driving for 12 months post-license with those under 20 in the car, unless a licensed adult of at last 25 is in the car, applies to teens who already had their license? My understanding is that the new law applies only to those who get their licences from now on, not those who got their licences last fall or summer. Am I wrong? Dianna

see http://www.dmv.ca.gov/dl/dl_info.htm#FIRSTYEAR Yes, it's true and it is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2005 for provisional license holders.

Dealing with other parents who don't follow the new law

January 13, 2006

Help! The January 6 Parents of Teens newsletter advised that tougher ''graduated licensing'' restrictions on new drivers became effective on January 1st. Previously, new license holders under age 18 were restricted from driving with passengers under age 20 for the first six months after obtaining a license; now it is for the first 12 months, and applies retroactively to licenses issued since January 1, 2005.

Plenty of data show that these laws have reduced teen accidents; they're designed to increase everyone's safety. In the Newsletter archives on this topic (when the restriction was six months), nearly every writer lamented that some parents ignore teen driver laws and strenuously urged every parent to help enforce them.

Well, we just learned that our teen has been riding with a friend who has been licensed for only seven months and, since January 1, is breaking the new law -- with her parents' permission. When (genuinely shocked) I questioned the parent, he seemed surprised and offended that I objected to our daughter being driven illegally by his.

Are my concerns misplaced? (1) That our daughter knew her friend was no longer legal to be driving her but didn't bring it to our attention, and (2) That this family did not ask us whether we were comfortable with the situation. It may be their prerogative, I guess, to flout public policy and allow their teen to drive illegally but is it their prerogative to involve other teens without the explicit permission of their parents -- without respecting other families' safety concerns and rules for their own children?

Our teen is just beginning the process of getting her learner's permit, and it seems the first messages she's gotten are: ''Teens are competent to decide for themselves what's safe to do'' and ''The risks and consequences of illegal driving are no big deal'' and ''It's OK to disobey annoying laws that impose temporary inconveniences.''

Am I off-base for feeling side-swiped, so to speak, or what? I'd love to hear other parents' thoughts and experiences.


Over the years my spouse and I have found ourselves at odds with the parents of some of our daughters (we have 3) friends. And we have many times found ourselves surprised by the degree of latitude some of the parents allow their children. It took a while, but we finally learned that we cannot ask or demand that other parents live by our values, but we can limit our childrens access to those situations we consider unacceptable.

What does that mean? That means that until our kids were legally able to take riders and accept rides according to the law, we did the driving. That if we did not want our children in particular places without chaperones we went with them or they didn't go. Simply said, if you have an issue, a value, and opinion etc, you have the responsibility to take care of it and cannot ask another parent to take on that responsibility.

More - we always talked to our kids about our concerns and values, we tried to blend into the woodwork, and we acknowledged their frustration. Finally, we told them, and meant it, that we would pick them up any time, any place without question, and reserved the right and responsibility to discuss the situation later. The funny thing about that is that we ended up picking up our kids as well as their friends on numerous occasions when they found themselves in uncomfortable situations or felt unsafe.

So, talk to your child about your rules and values, listen to her and come to some mutually acceptable agreements, but also take responsibility for enforcing your rules yourself. Carolyn

I think you know the answer to your own questions. Don't second guess yourself. It makes my blood boil how special and justified many people seem to feel these days in breaking all sorts of traffic laws. They exist for a reason. When people break these laws or allow their kids to they're helping to create/perpetuate a dangerous driving climate. Protect your daughter (and others) - you're the one who sends the strongest messages to her in her life and perhaps you'll be sending one to her friend vicariously. I personally believe your daughter should receive some sort of consequence for being caught in this situation as well. My son, now 20, was caught in something similar when he was 17 and we took away his driving privileges for a certain period of time.
Hard-nosed mother on the topic of driving laws

I feel for you. Yes, you were ''sideswiped''. Different families have different values. As a parent all we can do is communicate this to our offspring. You find out who some of your associates are as you see how they manage their families. It can be enlightening!
a Mom

What are the consequences of not following the new law?

January 27, 2006

I want to know what is the consequence of violating the law requiring no under-aged person in the car for 1 year? My daughter keeps insisting that she will ride with her friend anyway, that ''no one'' follows that rule, especially if they already are past the 6 mo. We are holding to the rule and will deal with her directly if we find out, but I'm curious what exactly happens to the driver when they get stopped and found out to be breaking the law?? ticket? license suspended?? I want to be able to talk to my daughter's friend and her parents about what she is risking by doing this. Parent of 16 yr old non-driver

Replying to the parent who asked: I want to know what is the consequence of violating the law requiring no under-aged person in the car for 1 year?

Here's what the DMV website says:


Provisional Driver License Sanctions: Currently a 30-day restriction is required if your driver record shows a violation point count of two or more points in 12 months.

A six-month suspension and a one-year term of probation shall be imposed if your driver record shows a violation point count of three or more points in 12 months. Also, the court is required to impose community service hours or fines for violation of specific provisions.

NOTE: Probation means: no tickets, no accidents, and any current restriction or suspension will run its full term even if you turn 18 before the restriction or suspension ends.



A one-point violation includes: Violation of License Restrictions: 14603 VC. No person shall operate a vehicle in violation of the provisions of a restricted license issued to him.\xc2\x94

Somewhere I read that police cannot stop a kid for this violation UNLESS the driver has already committed (or is suspected of) some other infraction (running a stop sign, speeding, etc.). So, logically, a young driver who gets 1 point for this is also getting at least 1 other point for another violation, making a total of 2 points which would kick in a 30-day restriction. And if another point is racked up within the year, more serious penalties kick in.

The other way police could discover this violation is, of course, if the young driver (with young passenger[s]) are involved in an accident. Then another question is: Would the parents' insurance company cover losses and damages if the teen driver were driving illegally? I think that would be dicey. Does anyone who works in the insurance business know???

IMHO, whatever the penalties or risks are, so long as s/my teen is a minor for whom I am legally and financially responsible, s/he does not have the right to pick and choose which laws to obey or disobey -- not without risking PARENTAL consequences of loss of privileges.

Limits with Love

For the parent that wanted to know the consequences of provisionally licensed teens either driving with minors or driving after the curfew, you can let your kid know that she or he is risking losing their license. My son was caught speeding after midnight with two minors in the car. The judge took away his license for a month and fined him over $300 (or many, many hours of community service to work off the fine). The speeding was the least of it -- it was the other two charges that he was punished for. The judge could have taken his license away for a year, but saw that my son was genuinely remorseful and mature enough to admit the stupidity of his actions. The community service, btw, isn't easy to do. The kid can only work with a court-sanctioned list of agencies and often they don't need help when teens are available(evenings and weekends). It was such a hassle for my son (no one called him back after many repeated calls), he ended up paying the fine. This was before the changes, when the provisional period was 6 months, not a year.
Good luck with it all! marissa

Earlier Discussions about New Driver Restrictions

Please make sure your new driver follows the rules

Sept. 2002

This subject is one more piece of evidence that it does, indeed, take a village to raise a child. We need to support one another. My son is 15, and can't wait to get his license. My new husband (his stepfather) and I plan to sit down with my son when he gets his license, and clearly lay out our expectations. Violating the new driver restrictions will result in us taking away his license for a period of time (to be determined). My husband has also stated that if he's caught street racing, we'll take away any car and sell it. My husband loves cars, and is glad to share his knowledge with my son. On a more serious note, my husband's mother, while riding a bike, was killed by a drunk driver; my husband was only 17 at the time. He has a deep understanding of the hazards and consequences associated with irresponsible driving. I encourage you to make sure your son follows the rules, and I'll do the same with mine. sympathetic parent

Friday night my daughter was injured in a car accident. She was riding with a 16 year old driver who offered her a ride, but had only had her license for 3 months. On top of that, the driver took two other passengers and was driving home after curfew.

She ran a red light in an intersection and was broadsided. My daughter had the worst of the injuries: facial lacerations and a shard of glass was imbedded above her eye, requiring 7 stitches to close it. Her wrist may be fractured - we won't know that for a few more days. She has body aches and pains but is lucky to be walking around. Had she been sitting by the passenger door, instead of in the middle of the back seat, her injuries would have been a lot more serious.

I write because last week a mother pleaded for parents to be aware of the new driving restrictions and enforce them. Even though the driver's parents had forbidden their daughter to drive others, she did. In addition to having other kids in the car and driving after curfew, she tested positive for alcohol at the scene. Her license has been suspended for a year.

As a parent, I have learned a painful lesson. I cannot take my daughter's word about her transportation arrangements with friends, because she doesn't know who can legally drive her. I need to call the parents and find out if the drivers are in fact legally able to drive passengers. And I need to communicate these plans to other parents. I sense a reluctance by parents to get in their kids' faces about plans, parties, transportation, etc. I feel fortunate that the accident wasn't worse. And it seems that the kids involved feel real remorse and have experienced a wake up call.

But it is our job as parents to keep our kids safe. And checking up on plans, drivers, legal limits and asking about drinking, drugs and driving is one way we all need to get involved. I urge every parent to stop a make a phone call before they let their child ride with another teen. Perhaps that call can avert the heartache we're now experiencing. Please keep this anonymous. Thank you.

Does Your Teen Obey the New Driver Rules?

Oct 2001

My 16 year old recently got her driver's license. Recent changes to the law require new teenage drivers to 1) not drive other teenagers for 6 months after they receive their license and 2) not drive at all between midnight and 5 A.M. Of course my daughter says, None of the other parents care about this, or X's dad says he assumes he'll drive friends anyway and would rather know about it than have him lie, and of course I say, You're stuck with the parents you've got, and If a cop stops you, you could lose your license. Although in general, she's a serious, responsible person, I'm concerned that she's disobeying these laws and not being truthful. Most of all, I'm concerned about her concentrating on the road and becoming a safe, experienced driver. I don't want to be either suspicious or naive. I would love to hear how others have handled these issues.

Welllll, yes and no. Depends. We have discussed the rules with her, and the reasons for the rules. She has already had to deal with an accident (the other guy's fault, fortunately--but would it have happened to a more experienced driver? Unclear.), so I think she is more careful now than before (she had another teen in the car at the time (daytime), and stood to lose her 3-month-old license if a cop had actually shown up). We are pretty divided on the subject. What we have said is that we'd rather have HER behind the wheel with her friends, stone-cold sober, than risk having one of her older friends drive who is NOT sober (for whatever reason). Since she is very intent on driving, she'd rather stay sober than miss out on driving. Which of course gives us the somewhat middling comfort of knowing that at least she's not smashed on whatever the other kids are smashed on. Needless to say, we've also made it clear that if she ever feels she isn't safe to drive, she is to call us, at any time of day or night, and we'll come get her as soon as we can (the offer does not necessarily extend to her friends, however). She did this once. It's a real game of give and take, and a test of how much you trust your teen, in some cases. Forbidding our teen to do anything pretty much never works, so we need to work with her as much as possible, and sometimes that means compromising a bit.

This is in reply to the parent who was wondering how other parents handled the driving restrictions for the first and second six months for new teen drivers. I suspect many parents turn a blind eye to the restrictions, but we don't. We have told our son we expect him to abide by those rules and that if he doesn't and we find out that his privileges will be taken away. He REALLY doesn't want that to happen. We did this for two reasons: one, because if he is stopped by police and is caught violating this rule he may lose his driver's license as a result; and two, we don't want to find ourselves condoning disobeying laws, as we feel it would give the wrong message. We discussed this issue with him more with a flavor of don't do something stupid and get in trouble with the police than it being our own idea. So far he has (I'm pretty sure) honored the rule, and I hope this continues.

I don't have a 16 year-old yet, but urge you to hold fast on insisting your child follow laws that are designed to protect her (and all of us) from inexperienced and/or distracted drivers. I will say that my new policy on the other parents don't care, w/ a 13 year-old is to ask for phone numbers and speak directly with the other parents, anytime that logic surfaces. It often turns out that the other parents got the same line from their teen. From my own experience at 16 (Pennsylvania) a pumpkin license (gone at midnight) was an excellent excuse to either go home or stay over at someone's house from 12-5am. It wasn't a hardship, but my parents letting me violate the law because I wanted to would have been. Heather

Regarding the parent asking about driving rules, we also enforced these rules with our daughter, even though none of the other parents of her friends seemed to care. This meant that our daughter would drive alone to evening/weekend events, and all of her other newly driving friends would break the law and come together in a separate car. This was difficult for our daughter to tolerate at the time, but she is now 17.5, a safe driver, and we are glad that we stuck to the law. Janet

My 16 year old son got his license at the end of March. I was adamant that he obey the driving-with-others restrictions. I saw him once riding with a friend who wasn't legally allowed to drive him. And I gave him a warning about not being able to drive for a certain period of time if he broke the law again. (Perhaps a similar warning should be given right away when the kid gets their license.) Well, we caught him driving someone two weeks before he could legally do so and his driving privileges were taken away for two weeks. It turns out that he (by his own admission) had given rides to friends four times during the six month restriction period - They needed a ride. What was I supposed to do, leave them there? In theory I strongly believe in upholding the law. Because everyone else is doing it is no reason at all to let them break the law. On the other hand, we found it almost impossible to monitor. We were lucky to have caught him. Maybe ours has been a rather slapdash approach to the problem and others have a more systematic approach.

Our 16 year old girl was highly motivated to drive. She got her license the morning that she turned 16. We made her stick to the rules religiously with much protesting in the beginning but she got used to it. When she had her permit, my husband let her drive to a field trip with several kids in the car. A car full of 16 year old girls can be very noisy and distracting and he pointed that out to her. With laughing kids and loud music, he told she would not be able to concentrate on her driving. When I was 16 I also got into an accident while talking to a friend, not paying attention. So were very strict and told her if she was caught driving kids around she would lose her car privleges. Since she was older than the rest (a December baby) she was the first of all her friends to get her license. I also didn't want her to become the driver of all her friends. Needless to say they all called her on the first day and told her the same arguments all kids give,! y! our parents won't know etc. I feel confident that since she told us this story that she followed the rules. She did say that it became annoying always being asked to drive everyone and that our rules gave her an out. After about 4 months we did let her drive one friend to avoid the complications when someone was spending the night of having her drive home and her friend having to ask someone else for a ride. At 16 and 1/2 she started driving her friends. She still comes home at 12 when she takes the car which also makes the night out not so late. When she wants to stay out past 12 she doesn't take the car.

In addition to this we gave her a Highway Survival Course for her 16th birthday (See recommendations for Sear's Point Highway Survival Course for the rest of this review.)

I thought this article from the San Jose Mersury might be of use to other parents: http://www0.mercurycenter.com/premium/local/docs/roadtip11.htm More notes on restrictions for new teenage drivers

My son says nobody follows the rules about other minors

My son just got his drivers license (yikes!) and I have a question:
We were told that for the first 6 months that he has his licence that he cannot have other minors in the car when he is driving. My son claims that this is not practical, not enforceable and nobody follows this rule. Does anyone know more? Robin

New drivers under 18 are now prohibited from carrying other teenagers in their car unless there accompanied by a licensed driver over 25. New drivers are under incredible pressure to give their non-driving friends rides, which doesn't help. For instance, our son has occasionally violated this law, which has been a matter of some discussion . Apparently the police don't stop them just for looking underage, but if they're stopped for any other reason (or the officer recognizes the driver) it's something else they have to deal with. It is being enforced, teenagers cited for violating it will lose their license. The word is that the suspensions have been running around 6 months, though they could loose it until they're 18. They also can't drive at all between midnight and 5 am, even alone. Chris

There are several limitations on new drivers. First, for the first 6 months they cannot drive with anyone under the age of 20 unless they are accompanied by a driver 25 years or older. THe second six months allows peer passengers without the 25 year old in the car. The obvious reason for this rule is that 16 year olds have more accidents than members of other age groups. These accidents are often due to inexperience and distraction. The DMV hopes to limit the distraction until the driver has more hours of experience. Yes it's impractical. Sometimes my son drives while his friend bikes along. In the first week he did have others in the car until I got wind of it from another parent and I reminded him what it would be like to not have a license for 2 years and asked whether it was worth risking his license to drive some girl to the video store. He and his friends do stick to it. It's up to him, since I'm not there to check.

The next restriction is the one I love the most. Your new driver cannot drive between the hours of midnight and 5 am. unless there's a 25 year old in the car. This last a full year. In other words, there's a built in curfew-- much like Cinderella's coach turning into a pumpkin. I would have given my eye tooth to have had this restriction on my older son's license. Now, by 12:05 a.m. I hear that key in the door.

If your child decides not to abide by the 1st year limitations on the license he might get away with it, but then again he might be stopped for that burned out tail light and I believe he can lose the license. The DMV has a booklet explaining all this. It's a parent's handbook and available at the DMV office.

The bottom line is: it's the law. The law is the law, even when nobody else follows it. -Winifred

From the DMV's web page http://www.dmv.ca.gov/faq/dlfaq.htm :

Provisional driver license restrictions during the first year The following new restrictions are for minors who apply after July 1, 1998, pass their driving test at DMV and are issued a provisional driver license. During the first 6 months you are licensed to drive you must be accompanied by a driver 25 years of age or older if you drive between the hours of 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. or if you have passengers under the age of 20 in the car at any time. During the second 6 months, you must still be accompanied by a driver 25 years of age or older if you drive between the hours of 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., however, now you may have passengers under the age of 20 in the car without supervision between the hours of 5 a.m. and midnight.

Yes the California Vehicle Code (CVC) now prohibits teens under 18 from driving other teens for the first six months after they get their license. They are also prohibited from driving between midnight and 5 am. First let me say that this kind of program is happening in many states, and that it is reducing the number of teen driving fatalities. I strongly supported the law with my daughter during her first six months. I wish the period was longer, because when she started driving her friends, she got in an accident. I found the CVC on-line and read all the loop-holes that exist. For purposes of driving to and from school if there's no other way, they can drive their own siblings, but must carry a signed letter from the head of the school. Penalties include loss of licence until 18 years old! This law needs strong support from parents to lower teen deaths from driving. Roger

I don't know about everybody else, but my daughter and her friends are taking the no passengers under 20 at face value and not transporting under-20-year-olds without an adult over 25 on board. By the way, if there's an adult over 25 in the car, it's OK. Here's what's on the California DMV website: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/faq/dlfaq.htm#FIRSTYEAR

The following new restrictions are for minors who apply after July 1, 1998, pass their driving test at DMV and are issued a provisional driver license. During the first 6 months you are licensed to drive you must be accompanied by a driver 25 years of age or older if you drive between the hours of 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. or if you have passengers under the age of 20 in the car at any time. During the second 6 months, you must still be accompanied by a driver 25 years of age or older if you drive between the hours of 12 a.m. and 5 a.m., however, now you may have passengers under the age of 20 in the car without supervision between the hours of 5 a.m. and midnight.

Parental Rules & Guidelines

Cell phone and iPod usage for new drivers

Feb 2011

I'm working on some very clear guidelines concerning driving behavior for our two kids, who are each about to become licensed drivers (our son is turning 15 1/2 and getting his permit; our daughter is two years older and finally feels ready for her license). I am especially interested in rules for cell phone and iPod usage, and would very much appreciate any guidelines that you have come up with in your family regarding the safe usage of these two ubiquitous items. Both kids are very trustworthy but neither has ever had this degree of freedom and/or responsibility; I want to create rules that are reasonable but keep everyone safe with eyes on the road. Texting is of course off limits. We have an older car without any fancy technology, so the kids would need to use hands-free ear buds with their phones. Is it realistic to tell them to pull over to use their phones? What are the consequences if you find out they've violated the rules? I'd like to get this right for the kids right out of the gate. Thanks for your suggestions. Wanting to put them in their own Sherman tanks

Our kids are slightly younger than yours, so I'll be interested in the responses.

We don't think it is safe to drive while talking on the phone even hands free. It certainly isn't AS safe.

So our plan so far is to say if they can't resist using their phone while driving it should be turned off. They can turn it back on when they get to their destination.

We are planning to have a one-strike rule for violating any driving contract provisions. If they drive and text or use their phone, they lose driving privleges until they are 18 and buy their own car.

Somehow we all learned to drive and survived for most of our lives without having instant phone contact while driving. --future teen driver parent (gulp)

Great question. I would require viewing the AT video on kids who were killed (or killed others) when they texted while driving. Very hard-hitting; here's a link to it on AT's website: http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=2964 So that's a ''never ever ever'' thing. Getting your kids a hands-free device for talking on the phone might be a good idea, though teaching them to pull over is better.

As to music, there are relatively inexpensive devices that can be purchased at Radio Shack or Target that allow an iPod or other MP3 player to use the car's stereo system to play music. Ours cost around $80 and we use it all the time. No need to use earbuds while driving, and again, it's not a good idea. Drivers are somewhat distracted by radio music, but at least they're likely to hear ambient sound (other cars, ambulances, horns, etc.) mom of an iPod addict

This is actually quite simple: California law prohibits anyone under 18 from using a cell phone while driving, including using a hands-free device. If your teen is required to follow the law, they will not be able to use a cell phone and drive. With regard to an IPOD, if it has a docking station its fine, but you also cannot have ear covering head phones on while driving.

The new Wireless Communications Device Law (effective January 1, 2009) makes it an infraction to write, send, or read text-based communication on an electronic wireless communications device, such as a cell phone, while driving a motor vehicle.

Two additional laws dealing with the use of wireless telephones while driving went into effect July 1, 2008. The first law prohibits all drivers from using a handheld wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle, (California Vehicle Code [VC] 23123). Motorists 18 and over may use a hands-free device. The second law effective July 1, 2008, prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a wireless telephone or hands-free device while operating a motor vehicle (VC 23124). Parent of teen driver

Teen Driving Contracts

July 2010

Greetings - our daughter, now approaching her 17th birthday, will be taking her driving test in August and it is highly likely that she will pass her test and become a licensed driver. I'd like to ask what ''contracts'' other parents have put in place at this crucial juncture. Did you find a pre-written contract on line, and if so, where? Did you make up your own guidelines, and if so, would you mind sharing the key points? My daughter is very trustworthy but this is all brand-new territory for both of us and I want to give her very clear parameters from the outset. I'm interested in things that might be obvious (no texting while driving) to less so (be home by X pm) and I'm especially interested to learn about the things I may not be thinking of at all. Thanks for sharing your experience and wisdom on this

You need to first educate yourself on all of the actual laws-- there are a number of new ones for teens that were not around when we were new drivers. We absolutely require our 17 year old son to follow these laws, the two most important being: 1) Teens may not drive other teens around, until they have had their license a year (aside from siblings with a note), and 2) New teen drivers have an 11 o'clock curfew. They may not drive after 11:00 at night.

I think you will find the most push-back around the teens driving teens rule, because it makes them all drive or all walk someplace...and truthfully, not all parents are sticklers about this. I don't care; the law's the law and even more importantly-- you are absolutely personally liable, if something were to happen while your teen was driving around another teen. You put yourself personally at enormous risk.

Our son has respected these rules and knows we mean business. We have told him that we will pick him up if he wants/needs to be out later than 11:00... but mostly he'd rather drive himself, so he shows up home on the dot at 11:00. This limits his freedom, sure, but truthfully, that's probably what the law was designed to do.

Those are the rules; if he wants to drive, then he must follow them. No second chances. It's not a toy.

You do have to recognize that there is an enormous learning curve for new drivers, though... nothing is intuitive yet, and really only comes from driving a lot, so it's important that he has a lot of opportunity to drive; and if he can do it a lot in the beginning when you are around (and you're not a super nervous passenger), you may have a chance to help pass on tips for good driving habits. - parent of teen driver

You can start with the law http://www.dmv.ca.gov/teenweb/dl_btn2/dl.htm

Many parents seem to be oblivious to the basic legal details of a the provisional license for any CA teen under 18 (see below). Even if you teen is 18 these make GOOD sense to follow for a year. It would make it much easier if ALL parents enforced this law!!

We have made it quite clear we don't care what other kids are doing you break the law you lose your driving privilege. 1st time- week, 2 time - month 3 time- a year. In the beginning we asked our son to text us when he got to where ever he was going and again before he started to drive home. Now that we have more confidence we do not ask for this each time. Of course no texting or talking on the phone EVER while driving or again he loses driving privileges.


Provisional driver license restrictions during the first year

After you pass your driving test, you will be issued a provisional driver license. With your provisional driver license, you must be accompanied and supervised by a licensed parent, guardian or other licensed driver 25 years of age or older, or by a licensed or certified driving instructor when you:

* Transport passengers under 20 years of age at any time, for the first twelve months.

* Drive between 11 pm and 5 am for the first twelve months.

This means you cannot give anyone under 20 years old (your friends, your brother(s), sister(s), cousin(s), etc.) a ride unless you have a licensed parent, a guardian or other adult 25 years old or older in the car with you. You are also not allowed to drive between 11 pm and 5 am during your first year after getting your license unless you have a licensed parent, a guardian or other adult 25 years old or older in the car with you.

With a provisional license, you can drive by yourself between the hours of 5 am and 11 pm. If you are under 18, you cannot be employed to drive a motor vehicle. Concerned parent of teenage boy

We drafted a driving contract when my son (now 19) started driving. We combined the best of various contracts we found online, and added some other things. It set forth, very clearly, his and our rights and responsibilities, and the consequences if he messed up. We never had a second's worth of trouble with his driving. He is a responsible kid, but I think the clear rules also helped. Here it is: www.shankland.org/drivingcontract.doc Mom of Teenagers

My sister has raised 3 teen-agers, all now in college. Here is her experience:

We did not have a Driving Contract because the Virginia State Laws for minors are strict with severe penalties. Virginia requires one semester of in class Drivers Education, 14 hours of driving with a licensed Driving Instructor, and 40 hours of adult supervised driving before a license is issued. The following rules apply to all drivers under the age of 18, based on statistical data for major causes of teen accidents:

1. Driving curfew is mid night (Cinderella license) unless proof is available for a school event or employment

2. Only ONE unrelated (non familial) occupant is allowed in the car with minor driving

3. NO texting or cell phone usage while driving

Our Household Rules:

1. Use of the car is a privilege earned by positive, trustworthy behavior and solid grades

2. Completion of Eagle Scout/Gold Award before car can be used for pleasure, the car can be used for employment and academic events while working on completion

3. When the car is in use, user must let parents know where the car/driver are (if the car/driver change location after departing home, a phone call reporting movement is required)

4. If the car is used for pleasure (non academic or employment related) gas must be paid for by the user

5. The car must be left neat and clean for the next user

6. The car keys must be left in a mutually convenient spot for all household members to retrieve when it is their turn to use the car

Thoughts on Insuring your teen driver:

Most car insurance companies require that you notify them when your teen has their Learners Permit. They generally do not charge premiums until they earn their full license. Check with your car insurance company for their Teen Driving Contract. I have heard some insurance companies (State Farm) require the teen to complete a ''driving knowledge'' packet before they will insure them, this may vary by state.

Most insurance companies will offer a ''Good Student'' discount and/or Eagle Scout/Gold Award discount. This discount will continue through college with proof of grades by transcript submission.

When your teen leaves for college don't forget to report this change to your car insurance carrier. If your student does not take a car to college and lives more than an hour away from home (distance will vary by state) their premium could be reduced. tryin2help

To the parent who posted the link [www.shankland.org/drivingcontract.doc] to your driving contract, thanks. It's terrific. I adapted it by adding in some of the comments that followed yours. I appreciate your generosity in sharing it. Nancy

Oct 2008

Hi My son(16) has his permit and hopes to get his drivers license in a couple of months. I was wondering about how others have approached this scary prospect...in terms of financially and rules....who pays for the insurance? gas? rules around riding with other minors, consequences for mis-use. other issues that i should be thinking about?! thanks kindly audrey

It would be important to lay out the rules and responsibilities now, BEFORE he actually gets the license. For the DMV, you have to sign that you will be financially responsible for him. You can withdraw that financial responsibility form from the DMV at any time and then he can't drive. So in my humble opinion, I would tell him that he cannot break the DMV rules about riding with other minors, etc.--and that he will lose driving privileges for two months for any minor rules that he breaks. Then if he does break the rule, impose the consequence immediately. No negotiations. Of course the DMV itself will impose much harsher rules if he is caught driving with any alcohol in his system or if he is found drinking in public/open container or any alcohol-related offense. He should know these serious consequences upfront.

Insurance is a necessity and the rate is high for male teenagers because they are more likely to have accidents. Parents differ about who pays for the insurance and gas. I made my son pay for both. That energized him to get some paid work during the summers to pay for the insurance. Also, he knew that if he had an accident or got a ticket, his insurance cost would go even higher. He definitely didn't want that!

I see no problem with the parent covering gas costs, but I really think the teenager needs to start understanding that insurance costs--though high--could be higher based on his behavior. If he doesn't pay for insurance, he might not care that much about it. Anonymous

When my daughter got her license this is how we did and still do it: She asks for the key to our only car and we discuss where she's going and when she'll be home, etc. At first I asked her to call me when she was leaving the place she was so I'd know at least when she left in case she didn't arrive home in a resonable amount of time. (So, I wouldn't worry and want to call CHP or something). I ask her to put gas in the car if she uses a bunch. When she's working I asked her to pay half of the increase in my insurance bill (about $50 a month for us). I figure she can't pay when she's not working, but could continue to put gas in. As far as driving with others. I am really clear telling her that it is against the law for the first year to drive people under 24 around (although I have heard 20). I think she gets it. I tell her if she gets caught or if something happens she could lose her license (weather she would or not doesn't matter). She's also not allowed to drive very late at night unless she's coming back from work. She wanted to drive a lot at first, but it's kind of worn off as everything is so close. The way gas prices are now, it's not hard to say NO to just driving around for the fun of it! We only have one car and I am the key-holder. If she has acted irresponsibly then she doesn't get to use the car, period. After your son takes his drivers' test, ask at the DMV what the rules are so he can hear them. It's just as much his responsibility as yours to abide by the law and knowing what the laws are helps! good luck! anon

Anon wrote ''After your son takes his drivers' test, ask at the DMV what the rules are so he can hear them.''

Careful. The DMV didn't know that it was legal for my daughter (17) to drive my son (15) to school.

The guy who gave her the driving test said emphatically ''absolutely no one under 20 in the car'' - ''no exceptions''.

He was wrong. I printed out the exceptions to the rule and presented it to a supervisor at the Claremont Ave DMV so she could inform the department.

The rules can be found here: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/teenweb/dl_btn2/dl.htm

scroll to bottom of screen and click on 'exceptions'. mike

Feb 2005

I have an about-to-be-16 year old son, who will soon be getting his driver's license. He is a careful driver, good grades, and hasn't done anything startlingly bone-headed in the last year. We've been talking, endlessly, about good judgement wrt driving, and before he goes for the driver test, I'd like to put all of this down on paper and have him, his father and me sign it.

Has anyone written a ''contract'' with their new driver that lays out your family's rules for driving? I'm thinking about issues like use of the family car, who is responsible for the costs associated with driving the car, and (obviously) consequences for breaking either the family's rules or California law (especially with respect to underage passengers!) Thanks, a Mom trying to anticipate issues...

Haven't done this (yet, mine is only 13) but it sounds like a good idea. For thoughts about what to include, you might want to consult ''Kids and the Law: An A-to-Z Guide for Parents'' -- a very handy publication from the State Bar of California (which covers a lot more than driving, etc.)

I think it's available for free by emailing a request to kids [at] calbar.ca.gov. Include your name, mailing address, phone number, and number of copies you want.

AAA has a booklet on teen driving which includes a contract. At the very least, discuss: who pays for gas, who pays for insurance, # of riders, curfews, cell phone use while driving (NO), who pays for repairs to car if in accident and under what circumstances - also any increase in insurance premiums, parking tickets, etc. Make it clear up front what the consequences will be if rules are not adhered to.

If you make sure that your already responsible teen knows that an automobile can be a lethal weapon and he is responsible for far more than just himself and the car, it will make a big impression. Make sure he understands that a terrible accident can cause a lifetime's worth of guilt and possible financial ruin. This is a time when I think scare tactics make sense as a 16 year old has never had to think about actions/consequences in such a major way before.

We had to point out to our 19 year old, away at college, that the potential consequence of his getting into an accident in a borrowed underinsured car, could be the loss of all his college funds if he were to be sued. These are things young people have not had to think about, no matter how responsible they are. anon

I found a teen driver contract at this site:



Car and 16-y-o out for the night?

Nov 2001

Since my 16 yo son is my only child I don't have experience in a lot of areas except by gaining it through trial and error. My latest confusion has to do with use of the car. He has had his license since last March and so far (knock on wood) so good. I don't have any problem with daytime use, it's the nighttime use that I waiver on. He wants to be able to take the car (we have 2) and spend the night at a friend's house. The problem with this is that I feel he's out there wandering around loose in the world and I'm not having any control over him. I initially said no, that if he wanted to spend the night at a friend's house, I would take him and pick him up. If he wanted to take the car out, he would have to be back at 11:45 (his current curfew). Then I gave in and let him keep the car over night and felt horrible about it. I guess while writing this I see that I should stick to my guns ... but he knows so well how to manipulate me to get my way. I guess the other issue is how not to wimp out with my teenager when I (have to admit it) really want to be loved by him like I was when he was younger. I'd appreciate any feedback on this issue from parents who have been there. Thanks.

It was my understanding that new drivers can not stay out all night, in fact can not drive after a certain time without an adult in the car. My son is 16 and does not have his license yet, but you can be sure he is going to follow all the new rules when he does get it or he can wait until he's 18 as far as I'm concerned. Having a close friend who lost their son because of driving stupid so soon after getting his license, I'm not budging on this particular issue. I suggest you read through the new restrictions again and use them to your advantage. If you feel uncomfortable, those new rules should help. Marianne

When Should Teens Start Driving?

18 year old does not want a driver's license

July 2010

For a couple of years (to prepare her) we have been telling our just graduated daughter that she needs to get her driver's license this summer, before leaving for college. We feel it is a safety issue more than anything, especially since she is female. She is extremely resistant and says that it is scary. (She was this way with riding a bike and other 'new' skills.) We have explained that she may be in a situation that she needs to get out of, drive someone to a doctor/hospital, or drive when her friends have been drinking. We have also said that just because she has a license it doesn't mean she has to drive, she just needs to be able to. She has had a lesson from a professional teacher and we have taken her to Alameda Naval Station (a GREAT place to learn) and she has made much progress in 3 hours of driving. There are moments when she actually seems to be okay with it. I am wondering if we are making a mistake by forcing this. I am hoping that at some point in the next few years she will see the value in this skill and decide that she wants to do it. Any thoughts from others who have faced this? Are we setting her up to be so resistant that she will never want to be a driver? HELP!! anonymous

You are doing the right thing. Like it or not, in our culture, driving is an adult competency and it is important that you help your daughter acquire it. I think you should try to be as matter of fact as you can be (try not to convey any of your own anxiety about why she needs to do this). Say that it's a skill she needs to have and you will help her this summer to be prepared to get her license. Perhaps provide a couple (or few) more professional lessons (money well spent). And then, the hard part, as many hours of practice as possible with you. More trips to the Naval Air Station (great idea!), short trips to the grocery store, heading out for an early Sunday morning drive when the streets are empty. We learned this lesson with our first son who was like your daughter...just not interested, naturally cautious, etc. With our daughter, I took driving as seriously as learning to swim and ride a bike. It helped me, and I think it will help you, to just be CLEAR that this was a skill she needed to acquire and that it was my job as the parent to help her.

One more tip. When it came time for my son to take the driving test for his license, we had a professional teacher take him. He took the test in the driving school car (an automatic, we had a standard transmission). The teacher was familiar with the neighborhood around the DMV and prepped him before the exam.

At 28, my son is one of few of his friends that has no desire to own a car but he is a competent driver and is glad I pushed him to get his license.

I say this with all empathy, but I think you should let this go. You can't make her acquire this skill. There are plenty of adults who never learn to drive and never own a car. If she chooses to be one of them, so be it. In an emergency, she can call a cab, take the bus, walk, etc. You've given her opportunities, and she doesn't want to do it. She's an adult now, and I suggest you save what little leverage you have in your relationship for more important things. You're not in charge of her anymore, and she will have to make her own way now and make her own choices. She may choose to learn to drive later, when she decides she wants to make a road trip, or commute to work, or just have more freedom.

Hi - I empathize with your frustration, but I would let her start driving on her own terms. All the points you raise are valid, but honestly she'll be fine if she doesn't drive. And ultimately, she'll drive when she realizes that driving will make her life easier. I lived for years in Washington, D.C. with a roommate who had grown up in Manhattan. She didn't drive in New York, she didn't drive throughout her 20s in DC - because she didn't need to. And finally, when she had kids and moved to suburban Washington, she got her license. Knowing how to drive isn't a life or death skill - like knowing how to swim. And if your daughter is nervous, she's not going to be a good driver. (I'm in the opposite position, of having a 15-year-old who counted down the days until she could take her driving test. Even a highly motivated driver can give a mom nail-biting rides.) Relax. She's an adult and she can face the consequences of her decision. anon

Let your daughter wait until she is ready. There are enough poor drivers on the road, that we do not need another that is NOT confident! My daughter waited until she was 18 to get her license. She also said that it was scary and was not ready until she was older. Now she is almost 20 and a confident driver.

Also, my son, now 17, hates to be the designated driver. His friends know that he will not drink so they depend on him to drive them to and from the parties.

Let your daughter wait until she is ready. Do you know the statistics for deaths due to automobile accidents? David

My daughter also did not want to learn to drive. She was scared, she thought it was too dangerous.I think it was wise to listen to her.Her anxiety about it would only make it worse if we forced it. She went through college, took public transportation when she had to or went with friends.She was very cautious and would not get in a car if the driver had been drinking. When she graduated from college she got a job, which required driving.Within 2 weeks she got her license and is a pretty good driver. Some people are not ready when the expectation is there. Through observing other drivers and maturing more, she was developmentally ready when she had to be. Now I want her to learn on a stick shift--again, resistance--but she understands the principles and feels she could in an emergency. Time will tell. been there

Hello- In my case, my mother successfully discouraged me from getting a driver's license. She was so afraid of me driving that I came to fear it too. Sounds like the fear needs to be addressed somehow. Is she afraid of being responsible for the safety of others (pedestrians)? That was my main fear. Is she afraid of crashing? Is she someone who has trouble with quick decisions or is overly deferent ro others and so finds it hard to be in traffic? (Also a problem I had.)

In the end, I got my drivers license at 36 because I moved somewhere with bad public transportation. I didn't regret all the years of using public transportation, but I sure kicked myself for not having given myself the option of driving years earlier.

Not to scare you, but there were several close calls in college and after (being followed home from a bus stop by a threatening guy), instances of men aggressively trying to get me in their car, groping, friends not being reliable (passing out, leaving without me) and having to walk home alone in the wee hours (and having people offer me rides so I'd be safe, which I of course declined). Having the option of driving would have been great. And now they have zip cars you can reserve online.

I hope my experiences can help your daughter realize she will be empowering herself if she has the *option* of driving. Best to you all! Former non-driver

I think you should let your daughter decide when she wants to learn to drive. It is actually her decision, and she is trying to tell you that she is not ready. I remember when my own parents tried to teach me to drive - both were overbearing and freaked out about it. Every lesson was unpleasant and finally I chose the passive way out - I refused to drive at all. Obviously I knew that a driver's license is a useful tool -- and by the way, your daughter is aware of this also -- however I resented the pressure they put on me. I resented it so much that I waited until I was 28 to get my license. And by the way, my mother STILL wanted to teach me to drive at that age! I declined politely, and paid for driving lessons myself. The point is that it was my money and my decision, a thing I did completely independent of my parents. You should leave your daughter alone on this one, and let her choose how and when to do it. anon.

I so would not push this. If she knows the basics -- how to start the engine, go forward, stop, steer, etc. she can drive in a real emergency. Not Everyone Needs to Drive

My sister who is now 50 years old was the same way. She took a few lessons from my parents but never got her license. She still does not know how to drive and is totally dependent on public transportation or her husband. My parents never forced the issue and this is what resulted in her (she didn't have any self motivation to do it herself). It is another life skill just like cooking, cleaning or basic skills you need to know to take care of yourself. My two cents - you are doing the right thing. Another mom

Does your daughter have school chums with a good driving record and license? Peers can be much more supportive. I am assuming she has her permit to practise. If she has such a friend offer to pay the friend or purchase lunch out - practise in the big parking lot, but leave the on road teaching to a good driving school - so the friend does not bear any liability. Also make sure your daughter's vision is good for driving - if she wears glasses make sure her vision is not over corrected for reading - that can make everything look too close. She may need more time. I suspect in a true emergency she can also call 911. If she can start a car, drive in a straight line and stop it, she will likely do what she has to do to drive a car if no one else is around. Counseling, even hyposis, can also help manage fears. Is this the only fear she has? If you are really worried about this it might aggravate her fear. Probably there is more going on with the prospect of leaving home for college too. Counseling might be a good thing to consider. confidant it will work out

In response to your 18 year old not driving yet...you are not alone. It seems that in the bay area, many teens don't drive. That being said, it would be wise for your teen to learn to drive. IMHO, get them driving with their permit as much as possible-to the grocery store, around your neighborhood, etc. The best time for new drivers to be on the road is on Sunday mornings (less traffic). I think the requirement for drivers under 18 is 50 hours of practice in daytime, and 10 hours of practice at nighttime before they can get their license. That's a good rule of thumb for any new driver, regardless of age. So have her practice, practice, practice and then get her license. She will thank you for it later. my teen doesn't drive either

18+ years old and learning to drive

Oct 2011

My son is 17 years old and hasn't taken any steps to get a drivers license yet. School and all his activities are in Oakland, Berkeley, or San Francisco and he's perfectly happy walking or taking bus/BART. I have no doubt that he will eventually want to drive, so I don't mind waiting, however I don't understand how somebody 18+ years old learns to drive. If he's 18 when he starts, can he still get a driver's permit in order to practice driving? Also, I've been told that teenagers who are 16 years old with driver's permits can practice while covered on their parents' insurance. Is that still the case for wannabe drivers 18 or older? Any advice about this would be greatly appreciated. - in no rush to share the family car

Yes, it's true that those over 18 can get a driver's permit. They just need to go to DMV, pay a small fee ($13?), take a brief written test on traffic rules and then a driver's permit is issued. The permit is good for one year, and allows the permit holder to drive with anyone 25 or older who has a driver's license. Those with a driver's permit will be covered on the primary driver's car insurance without any additional insurance premiums. You just need to notify your insurance company. My daughter is 19, and had a permit when she was 18. It expired after one year, but she still didn't have her license at the time. She went to DMV, paid the fee, took the written test again, and now has her 2nd driver's permit, and is practicing to get her license. Signed: mom who wants her teen driver to have lots of behind-the-wheel experience DC

I am the mother of three sons who all learned to drive after 18. The permit process is simple, just an eye test, birth certificate and then they can take the written test. If they pass the written test, then they can drive you home from the DMV. This can be scary even if you aren't the jittery type! There are booklets for parents and recommended number of hours etc all on line at the DVC website for you to use. The driving schools are also available if you need them. (Not free). Anonymous

Check the DMV website or call the DMV for information about licensing. . Contact your insurance carrier for information about insuring an 18 year old learning to drive. I could tell you what my insurance carrier does, might not be same for yours. My advice on kids and learning to drive is this: the more time they have practicing with parents in the car, the better. this means encouraging them to get their permit shortly after they become eligible, take diving lessons, practice, practice, practice and get their license. Once they turn 18 the one year probationary period does not apply, meaning they can drive with other kids. Yes, it costs more to insure a 16 year old licensed driver but you have more time to have them drive with you in the car before they go off to college. look it up yourself

When should 17 year old start driving?

April 2011

Would love feedback from this wise group on the following: our daughter, soon to be 17 1/2, does not yet have her driver's license, and I'm wondering what position to take on this issue. A little backstory: when she turned 15 1/2, she expressed interest in driving, got her permit, took the behind the wheel training, and then did not pass her DMV driving test on the first and only try. Since then, much less interest. She's got a full plate with academics and athletics and is pre-occupied with that; she has me to drive her as needed so another lack of motivation. A little more: Her younger sibling is about to get his permit and is very anxious and motivated to drive, so he will be at the wheel shortly. Who knows how she will receive that? And my husband wants her to drive, to be more independent and better prepared to leave the nest. He's pretty assertive about that and thinks I'm doing her a disservice by not encouraging her more actively. As for me: I am a pretty cool customer, but the thought of my kids driving just strikes terror in me. Although I've tried to be a good teacher, I'm sure I'm communicating my dread to my daughter. What can I say? She's had the 6 requisite hours with a professional teacher; that was quite some time ago. Question: do I wait for her to be more ready, more motivated? Do I encourage her, put her behind the wheel now whenever possible? In the past, I've waited until my kids were developmentally ready to tackle big challenges. The bottom line: I want her to be an outstanding driver, safe at all times. I know she really needs the practice and to move on with this. When to make this happen? How to get her back behind the wheel with confidence? thanks for your feedback

Don't push her! Older new drivers are safer (ie a brand new 19 yr old driver has fewer accidents than a brand new 16 yr old driver). I didn't learn to drive till I was 21 and I am perfectly comfortable driving now. But, I do agree she should be independent--maybe start driving her around less and ask her to figure out other ways to get where she is going (bike, bus, walk, BART, rides from friends). Just tell her that when she is ready to get her license to let you know and you will help her prepare, whether that is more paid classes, more practice driving with you or another adult, or whatever... safe driver

Now. Really, there is no question about it, now is the time to get her practicing again. Just admit to her what you are scared about, and tell her it is a skill she needs to know, like swimming or arithmetic, and get her driving again. She should have her license before she moves out, which could happen in just a few months. If your husband really wants her to drive, maybe you can enlist him as a teacher. And the more practice she can get while you are with her, the better. Practice, practice, practice! anon

I'm of two minds on this. First of all, I think anyone who doesn't want to drive shouldn't. My niece went through exactly what your daughter is going through. When she was 18, she finally decided to get her license. She was ready and did well on her test.

On the other hand, with my own kids, I think of driving much like swimming: Even if you don't plan to do it much, you should definitely know how. What if she is out with friends and one is incapacitated in some major or minor way that prevents him or her from driving? My son has had his learner's permit for 3.5 months and is still little anxious to get behind the wheel. So, we are taking it slowly and we'll let him test for his license when he is ready, not when he turns 16 on the dot.

If I were you, I would start setting time aside to take your daughter out driving (assuming her permit is still valid?) and help her hone her skills and build confidence. She can take the test when she is 18 without all the driver's training stuff and provisional permit considerations anyway. It could be a great 18th birthday present to herself. Maybe push it a little and see what happens. Sometimes kids need the gentle push from their parents. It lets them know that we have confidence in them.

Sooner is better. You really don't want her to be 18 and driving without the one year probationary period to practice with mom or dad in the car. Been here, my son turned 18 3 months after he got his license. End of probation. My younger son got his license at 16.5yrs, he has more time to practice with mom and dad before he goes off to college, turns 18, can drive with friends in car etc. imho, it sounds like you're the problem and you know it. If she's failed the driving test once already then it's time to outsource it to a professional driving instructor. Let a driving instructor teach her and she'll gain confidence, skill and will pass the test. I mean no offense, sometimes we parents need to step aside and let a pro handle it. i'm the mom, not a driving instructor

I just went through this same issue with my teen. He was not an eager driver, then had a big setback as a permit driver when another driver hit him, totalling the car. (Insurance determined it was 100% the other driver's fault, and no one was hurt, but it was traumatizing all the same.) I let him take a break for a while, but encouraged him to get back in the driver's seat. We set a distant date to take his behind the wheel test, and he agreed to do additional driver's training with an instructor to get back into it. We did a lot of driving together, he took another 2 hours instruction, and he passed the test. He still doesn't drive much, but his confidence is back and he has his license.

Why did I push it? Like you, I am terrified about my kid driving. Also like you, I don't like to push kids to do things they aren't ready for developmentally. In this case, though, I feel strongly that driving is a life skill that a person has to have, and I would much rather my teen learn at home, when I can drive with him, explain things to him, and (hopefully) instill good habits. If he didn't get his license before he left for college, I didn't want him going off and doing it alone as an 18-year-old adult. There was recently an article in the NY Times about teen drivers http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/18/new-lessons-to-pave-a-road-to-safety/?scp=4=teen%20drivers=cse that states the importance of parents ''narrating'' what they do as they are driving: scanning the road, being on the lookout for pedestrians, pointing out unsafe driving. I want to do as much as I can while he's still living at home. Anon

Son wants to drive now; I want him to wait till he's 18

Sept 2005

My son just turns 16. He has been asking me for taking driving lessons in the past few months. I have told him repeatedly that he has to wait until he is 18. My reasons are that 16 is too young to own a car and drive. I have read a few articles that teenagers brains will not be fully developed until it's 18. More importantly, my son is a follower, he is immature and not street smart in certain things. Not alone the cost of a car, insurance, maintenance and gas. (I am a single mom and his Dad is out of the picture). We live 5 minutes from his high school and there is no reason for him to drive. Parking at the high school is almost impossible in the morning. I am always available to take him here and there on weekends. However, all his best hang-out friends (5-6 of them) are taking lessons together and start driving. He feels embarrassed and left out and depressed. He said I don't understand him as much as other parents understand their child. He said he can take the lessons together with his friends and not drive until 18. What shall I do? Let him or stick to my principal. Please advice. Thank you.
worried single mom

Hi, I'm the Mom of a teen and an injury prevention professional with knowledge of teen driving issues. The reason for restricted/graduated licensing is to give the teen more time behind the wheel before they are fully licensed, and to reduce certain high-risk situations, like driving with friends in the car. The research shows that it's the experience, along with the brain development issues, that makes us safer drivers. In your case, I think you should consider doing it your son's way because it is so important for that whole ''fitting in'' thing -- and it will give him the driving experience he needs. You could insist that he not drive to school, that he earn $ for his own car when the time comes, and set other terms that fit your family situation. You can learn more about CA's graduated licensing laws at the DMV website I believe. Good luck. Nancy

My advice, for what it's worth, is to go ahead and let him take the driver's ed training, followed by getting the permit, followed by at least 6 months of driving with you in the car with him, followed by (maybe) passing the driving test and getting his license. You see this whole thing could easily take the better part of a year. However, once he gets his license, he doesn't have to own a car or drive to school. He can just borrow your car occasionally on the weekends. California has a graduated license, so for the first six months even with the license he won't be able to drive a bunch of his buddies around.

In the process of all this, he might well gain some maturity. If he still wants to own a car, you can have him research costs like insurance, gas, maintenance, etc. to convince him that it's just not practical for him now to own a car.

I think if all his friends are really doing the driver's ed thing and you won't let him, then he'll build up a lot of resentment against you that could take years to dissipate.

Good luck. Dianna

assuming you can afford the cost, I'd urge you to let your son take the driving lessons, and spend time practicing with you. my son is almost 17 1/2, and has had his permit for almost a year. I'd guess that most of his closest friends are in a similar situation and don't have their licenses yet either. especially since your son has already said it's okay with him not to get his license til he's 18, this really is one battle you don't have to fight, and you can get some points for letting him take the lessons. you don't have to pay extra for car insurance until he gets his license. best wishes getting through this one.
anon for son's privacy

I agree that kids need to have maturity to drive by themselves, and many kids at 16 are simply not there yet. That said, there is another important component to driving safely that you didn't mention: developing driving skills. Learning to be a good, safe driver takes not only maturity, it also takes PRACTICE-- the more the better.

My daughter is almost 16 and is very mature for her age. She is a focused, ambitious student and athelete. She currently has her driving permit and has logged over 40 hours of driving time with me. While she completely trustworthy and responsible, she needs alot more practice before I feel like she'll be safe to drive alone. Fifty hours over six months (the amount of time legally required to drive with a parent before taking the test) seems to me to be the MINIMUM time required for these kids to learn to drive safely. There is alot to learn-- anticipating other drivers, judging stopping distances, estimating the time needed to cross an intersection safely, deciding when to stop (or not stop) at a yellow light, merging onto highways and into fast-moving traffic, watching for pedestrians/ bikes, etc.. In addition, kids often don't know how to drive to places they've been going to for years. Learning all this just takes time.

I would advise you to go ahead and let your son get his permit at 16. Then if you don't let him get his license until he's 18, at least he'll have well developed driving skills by the time he does start to drive by himself.

Just as a side note: It is my understanding that one must take the driving test within one year of getting the permit. So if you do let him get his permit, but are not planning to let him get his license within the year, he will probably have to re-take the written test. bhovers1

I would highly recommend you let him take the driving classes now and get his license. Then you can let him drive sometimes with you in the car. This way by the time he is 18 he will have the experience to drive safely. Also consider that in case of emergency where you are unable to drive, it would be great for him to be able to drive. Deborah

I think you have 2 different topics here. Learning to drive, and owning a car/driving to school. I see both as separate issues. If you agree to let your son take driving lessons, I would certainly do it in a drivers ed class(as opposed to mom taking him out in a parking lot). Let him know there are strict boundaries and you may not let himn drive after all even if he has a license, if you feel he is not mature enough. I understand the peer pressure if many of his buddies are learning. As far as owning a car, or even driving your car...that can be way down the road. I'd probably lean toward allowing him to learn with a responsible, reputable instructor, but really you know him and you are the only one that can appropriately make that decision. anon

Daughter says EVERYONE is getting a car at 16

July 2004

My almost-15-year-old girl assured me yesterday that EVERYONE she knows will get a car when she or he is 16. (Because she knows one 15-year-old who's learning to drive and who says he'll have a car soon.) I reiterated that she may take driver safety, or whatever it's called, at Berkeley High when she's old enough, driving lessons when she's old enough, etc., but that she may not have a car until she's at least 18 and able to pay for it herself.

At this point, her assertions appear to simply be a statement of her need to feel independent, but I did start wondering what other parents do about driving. Melanie

I have had a similar conversation with my daughter and I can assure you that ''everyone'' who turns 16 is not getting a car. I too have told my daughter that she will have to earn the $ for her first car. I have a couple of reasons for this, both as a parent and as a safety professional. I think it is very important to earn things, especially rites of passage like cars -- it builds self-reliance and more value is placed on things that people have to work hard for. The safety aspect is that it is proven that people with experience get in fewer accidents, and teens just haven't had enough time to gain that experience. California has a graduated licensing law that attempts to help teens get this experience step by step, by limiting the times and conditions under which young people can drive until they become fully licensed. This has reduced accidents involving 16 year-olds, but unfortunately they seem to make up for it when they become fully licensed -- the accident rates increased for 17-20 year olds. Anyway, for these reasons and more this is one area where I think its really important to ''put the brakes on''. strong feelings

My son is 15 1/2 and is currently taking driver's education and driver's training and will have his permit soon. Let me assure you that I totally agree with your opinion. My son will not be getting a car until he is 18. I don't think we can ever be too safe with this issue. My dad used to tell me, ''Cars can be fixed, people can't''. Even though I have a very responsible boy, cars carry way too much risk for a whole lot of reasons........attention span, friends, etc etc. I haven't heard any reports from any other 15 1/2 year olds that they will be getting a car at 16. I think it is important for my son to learn to drive and to have some experience with driving from 16 to 18. But, this I would take very slowly. Linda

Faced with this issue my husband and I felt very strongly that the last thing we -- or our environment -- needed was yet another car on the roads. We resisted the pleading of our daughter and are very pleased with the result. We all share equally in the use of both cars and when her younger brother starts driving this year he will also have to share. We are both self employed, however, and our driving requirements are perhaps more flexible than most. We also made it clear to both kids that they needed to pay 1/2 of the cost of their car insurance -- which in this day and age is no small amount of money. My daughter had to chip in $500 and my son will have to pay twice that amount for his insurance coverage. I just think it's really important that our kids learn that driving and owning a car has financial consequences to the family that they should to contribute to. Both kids are working this summer to pay for the car insurance -- a win-win solution for us. They're learning the value of work and the value of money -- and hopefully a basic life lesson as well -- '' there's no such thing as a free ride . . .'' anon

When our daughter began driving, even before she got her license, we purchased a third car. We bought it used, and got the safest car we could (a 12-year-old Mercedes). I drive a stick shift car, which our daughter was not ready to learn, and her dad drove a large American car which she was not comfortable navigating or parking. We wanted her to have a car that she could drive to school (and take her little sister), and have at her disposal to drive to after school activities, etc. She has always understood that this is not HER car, this is our car, and she must ask permission to use it except for routine trips (school, dr. appts., etc.). She knows that she will never have a car of her own until she can afford to purchase it, maintain it, insure it, etc. Until then, however, it has been in our family's best interest for her to have use of a car. In fact, most all of her friends have a similar arrangement with their families. None of us is rich, our kids all go to public schools, and we live pretty modest lives. Our daughter will be off to college in a few weeks and there has never been any question that the car will stay at home, ready for our next child to turn 16. If you go this route I recommend getting a stodgy car--an old Mercedes, Volvo, or the like. One that is built like a tank, is very safe, and is nothing a teenager would be tempted to drive recklessly. Judy

Very few of my sons' friends at Berkeley High had cars in high school. The few who did, mostly needed a car to get to work or other activities before and after school. Anyway, if we are talking about driving to school in Berkeley, where on earth would they park?! My sons did not even get their drivers licenses till they were 18, mostly because they didn't really need to drive before then. On the other hand, teens who live in suburban areas may be more likely to have a car since the public transportation options are so limited... anon

How do you enforce the New Driver rules?

Aug. 2002

I know that this was covered in part in a previous discussion on the website, but how have other parents dealt successfully with the restrictions on new teen drivers when all of the other parents of your teen's friends do not abide by the rules? We had my son wait until he turned 17 to get his license, since he was older than many of his classmates and we didn't want him to be the only one of his group driving as a sophomore. We feel fairly confident in his around-town driving skills, but are determined to stick by the no passengers under 20 rule - for his safety as well as for theirs, and for our insurance liability. However, as his friends/classmates are turning 16, not one of their parents seem to insist upon this rule, which puts us at a disadvantage in enforcing this law. He is currently sharing one of the family cars, and it seems that most of his friends were handed a car the day they received their licenses (another point of contention for him), which must also make it harder for the parents to keep track of what is going on.

Short of calling all of the parents of his friends and asking for cooperation (which would embarrass him and I'm not sure we'd get anywhere with this), and short of forbidding him to step in a car with a friend who just received his/her license (although we are pointing out the reasoning behind the rule and the dangers involved) and continuing to do what we have been doing (offering to drive him, his girlfriend, his friends to places any chance we can), what other suggestions do parents have? If a teen is caught driving other teens during the six month period, does he/she get the license taken away until age 18 ... really? It would help to know that there is this heavy clout, and to use it as an example. Or do the cops let them off with a mere warning, as all of his friends and their parents seem to think?

It sure would help if every parent played by the same set of rules (the *law* in this case!), but I guess that would be wishing for too much...

- (anonymous, please)

I'm replying to the question about teen drivers and the provisional license rules. We observed this law and did our best to enforce it with our son. He had access to a car to drive fairly freely while his provisional period was in effect. We told him firmly that we expected him to abide by the law. It seems that LOTS of other families don't send that message to their kids.

The actual enforcement of the law was a bit problematic. I don't think the cops come down super hard about it, and usually give warnings rather than citations. We gave our son two warnings when it seemed to us that he was not abiding by our rules. The third time he was driving with another friend in the car and we found out, we took away all driving privileges for a week. This meant he had to take the bus to school and to after-school sports practice, as well as to and from an after-school tutor (to Kensington from BHS, then home to south Berkeley). We told him if he broke the rules again he would lose the privilege until the time that it would be legal to drive with friends in the car, which was three months in the future.

This worked well for our son. I think he was actually under pressure from other kids to ignore the restriction, since so many other families don't enforce it. Our drawing the line in such a public way took him off the hook and enabled him to abide by the rules without losing face socially, and helped him realize we were serious about the rule.

Please keep me anonymous so my kid won't be embarrassed. Thanks.

Kids who are caught breaking the rules DO get their license taken away from them. It IS a big deal. These laws were passed for a reason and statistically teen driving deaths have gone down as a result. Cops have a no-tolerance rule on this. My husband works for the PD and I hear all the grisley details, not pleasant but I make sure my son understands the consequences. He's not driving yet, but when he does, we will have harsher punishments for him than the law has. I would think the recent stories of teen deaths in the last year would keep anyone firm about following these rules. I've read too many news reports on teens just getting their licenses and ending up dead the same day. Stick to your guns on this one. You can't control what other people do, but you can set the rules for your own family. If your son grumbles about him, tell him you'd rather have him alive than dead. Sign me anon

New Driving Rules -- my older daughter (now 19) was in the first batch of teens getting licenses under the new rules (three years ago). We simply stuck by the rules no matter what anyone did, and we didn't get her a car until her senior year. The statistics supporting the new rules are quite strong -- and that was our pitch-- Experience has shown that good driving is largely a matter of developing judgment through experience; until teens have more experience, then we agree that they don't drive alone with friends during those high-risk times. We want you to be alive and healthy, so we follow the new rules, no matter what. These new rules we believe are a matter of life and death for teens. We made it clear that we had adopted these new rules as a family because we cared about her and her friends. Debra

Please make your child stick to the rules, they are good ones. I have a 16 year old beginning driver and am running into the exact same situations you are. All my sons friends were given cars and the parents do not enforce the rules. I decided to take the hard road because when he had his permit and I was in the car I was able to see first hand how easily distracted he was (how bad his driving became) when his friends were in the car with us. I could only imagine how it would be without me there.

I handled it by having a long talk with him about money. We went over the facts. I explained to him that insurance companies do not have to pay if he was driving illegally at the time of an accident. I showed him the hospital bill from the day he was born, to let him see how expensive it is. I let him know his friends would have to sue him to pay such outrageous bills. But the key fact was to let him know that all these horrible things could happen even if he was not at fault. The fact is 2 out of 3 California drivers are out there with no insurance. They have no way to pay-it is up to him to protect himself.

I know a 16 year old girl that got a speeding ticket and an extra ticket for breaking the provisional rules. She was given a very high fine. $400. She had her license taken away for 2 weeks and had to do 50 hours of community service. This just happened a few months ago. Word out there is the police and judges are starting to take the rules more seriously than in the past.

Good luck. AJF

Parents' Anxiety about Teen Drivers

Managing my own anxiety as daughter learns to drive

April 2010

Hi - I'd love some advice on the following: I need to find ways to manage my own anxiety as my daughter learns to drive. She's 16 1/2, has her permit, would like her license, and needs more time at the wheel. I find myself so nervous when she's driving, and I'm sure I'm communicating that, despite my efforts to appear relaxed. The other day, she was driving, and in two situations, merged into the lane of traffic without looking at whether she in fact needed to yield, and I thought I would just have a nervous breakdown. Fortunately of course, it was light traffic and no one was nearby, but it was scary. She's a great kid, competent, trustworthy, and up until now, in my parenting, I've been trusting, encouraging of appropriate risk-taking, and generally pretty relaxed. But not now, not with this. She needs the practice and I need to get myself together to give her more driving time, and to make sure she has all the support and training necessary to become an outstanding, safe driver. Any suggestions? Freaked but maintaining

My son just received his license so this is all very fresh in my mind. I, too, was a nervous wreck for the first few months. I recommend limiting the time, place, and duration of the practice driving until you are able to remain calm (your anxiety will only make it harder for her to concentrate on her driving). For example: early Sunday morning, large empty lot, one hour. Try your best to limit your instruction to the time immediately before you get in the car and your constructive critique to the time after the practice is over. When you are ready to teach a specific skill, eg, lane changes, stay with early Sunday. We practiced lane changes up and down a deserted San Pablo. Give her all the positive reinforcement you can! It really will speed her progress. The DMV materials are good at pinpointing skills to practice. Your own experience with her will help you identify others. (Our first big one was ''stopping distance and smooth braking''). Don't expect too much too soon. If you can identify a discreet skill or two and limit your expectations, her confidence will grow as her ability grows. For example, coming to a complete stop at stop signs and staying within the posted speed. Then give her lots of opportunity to practice those things, improve and earn your praise. Then take a break! Worse comes to worst, get someone else to teach her. Good luck! anon

Colleen West, MFT in El Cerrito, has helped others work through this issue effectively and efficiently! She specializes in EMDR, which can powerfully address anxiety. 510.412.2155 Ellen

Personal dread at daughter's driving

Oct 2009

Our daughter is turning sixteen in a few short weeks and is very excited at the prospect of getting her driver's license. She has her learner's permit, has completed the six-hour behind-the-wheel training course and is now accumulating the hours she needs to be eligible to take her driver's exam early next year. She is a very grounded, mature, responsible young adult. She takes her school work seriously, gets great grades, earns money babysitting, is not remotely what one could consider a party animal. She looks forward to the freedom of movement and self-determination that driving will permit (don't we all?). I know we will create a contract and that I will know where she is at all times and that she won't be heading off somewhere unaccounted for, and I know when the time comes she will be a highly trained driver. Here is the issue: I am just terrified of the prospect of her at the wheel. I do a ton of driving, I see so many idiots on the road, I have lived long enough to have out-lasted a lot of people, and I think if something bad happened to my daughter I would just stop breathing. So this post is really about me and not her; and I could use some advice about how to handle my own feelings about her increased independence and the risks involved; I don't want my own anxiety to poison the whole well here for either of us in this area. To make matters more real, my best friend lost her twenty-one-year-old son about two years ago, and we are all still in mourning, and that no doubt colors my sensibilities in this regard. I trust my daughter, I just don't trust the world she is entering, and this is the first time in her almost-sixteen years in the world that I feel completely out of control and not in charge of her safety. Would really welcome some words of wisdom here. Scared like never before

Hi, I feel for you. We also have a daughter that started driving by herself this fall. I know, we are living in the Bay Area, with all its traffic and hazards; and I was just reading something about people texting and driving... Perhaps it might help if you have her drive you to errands etc. as much as possible, until your confidence level in her ability to avoid unexpected things increases. Keep reminding her that low speed and staying focused can help improve the odds against knucklehead drivers out there. Keep reminding her of being a defensive driver. When you both are kind of ready, let her loose and pray. We gotta let them go sometime. I'll be praying with you

You stated, ''I feel completely out of control and not in charge of her safety.'' Well, the truth is that none of us, at any age, have control over the idiotic, distracted, drunk or angry drivers out there. And as your daughter continue to move out into the larger world, you will also not be in control of, or in charge of, her safety.

You've raised a child that in your words is ''a very grounded, mature, responsible young adult. (Who) takes her school work seriously, gets great grades, earns money babysitting, is not remotely what one could consider a party animal.'' That means that she has an excellent foundation for making good decisions, and has at the very least, the rudimentary ability to keep herself safe. This is what every teen needs.

My son, like your daughter is a mature, grounded teen, who got his license a few months ago so I know your anxiety. We are having him do a computer course, Teen Smart, from Adept Drivers, and this has further improved his skills, especially at awareness of what is happening on the road beside, and in back of him. Passing this course also gives you a AAA discount on insurance.

Consider expressing your concerns to your daughter in a straight forward way, when you are calm. Discuss the death of your friend's son and how this impacting you, and your goals, both for yourself and your daughter, as she as moves out into the world. mom of new driver

My first thought is, get used to it. Any parent has ample reason to be terror-stricken all the time. Bad drivers are only one of the myriad dangers out there; and as the years go by we become less able to protect our children from them -- not that we were ever able to protect them from every danger anyway.

My second thought is, the flip side of terror is gratitude. Every day you and your child inhabit this world together is precious; you never know whether today might be the last one. So you could worry about what may be gone tomorrow, or you could enjoy what's here today. John

Dear Mom dreading daughter's driving....welcome to the club. We can't wait till they grow up and are more independant so our lives will be easier, and then they grow up and are more independant and we freak out that we have no control....Sigh.... Here's what helped me...I went driving with my son for his practice hours (very scarey sometimes)...I tried not to back seat drive but only offer constructive suggestions. When he got his license, (fortunately for my stress level, he waited till he was 18), we let him take the car on short runs...to the store, to a friends, etc. He'd call us as soon as he got where he was going, and each time he was going to leave to go to another place and when he got there. He was very confident (which can be dangerous when coupled with inexperience). We let him drive a lot to get totally comfortable with it.

He got a speeding ticket after 3 months doing 80 on 580, which was an expensive and good lesson for him (he paid for it and also did traffic school).

I dont' know how to ease your dread. I know that trusting your daughter to be a conscientious driver is only half of it. You just can't controll the rest so maybe you just have to let go and trust, pray, try to be more positive? Wait till she goes to college, if you think you're worried NOW!!! My best to you. Just know you are not alone in these feelings. mom of 18 yo driver ,in college.

You have outlined the benefits and risks of driving. Have you thought of the benefits and risks of not driving? If she doesn't drive, other less responsible kids will be driving her around. Her ability to get to school, work, events, vacation spots will be limited. It is really best that she learns to drive now. It would be so much harder later. Start out letting her drive by herself on short trips, maybe even just a few blocks. Then as you both develop confidence, let her go farther. Yes, walking is healthy and creates less pollution, but driving is an important skill in the world we live in. Sanon

Dear mother of teen driver,

My heart melted when I read your post. I also have a teen daughter, just turned 16, and currently in the process of completing her practice hours so that she can take a driving test.

Just this morning I took her out to drive and we had a scary moment where she found herself in busy traffic in a potentially dangerous situation. Once she pulled over and cried about it she said to me: I don't like it when you yell (and I wasn't actually yelling, but she experienced my reaction that way), but when I'm in a scary situation I WANT you to tell me what to do. It was a good reminder that she is still just a child and needs direction from me when she is in an unknown situation.

So, my advice to myself, now that you've given me the opportunity to reflect on my own feelings about this, is the following: I'll feel the need to set logical limits on her driving in the first 6 mos. She'll push back and complain about them, but truth is she'll be relieved to not find herself in a scary situation without her mom sitting next to her to help guide her out of it. This new learning leap she is taking behind the wheel has been a great way to be close with her, to watch as she takes fearful steps forward (a great reminder of when she was learning to walk). And then, at a certain point, I learn to let go and let her live her life, take risks, and meet her challenges using the resources that I've given her. I survived my teenage years, driving, experimenting, roaming, goofing-off, somehow with only the common sense that I had already been given.

As parents, we'll need to take these feelings to our friends or spouse/partner, cry about it, lament, remember our own early years when we took risks. At some point we'll begin to rediscover the boundaries between where our child/emerging-adult ends and we begin, and we can begin to let go. I'm with you on this one. Reach out to others as you have, and let's get through it together. We love our kids, and we want to see them live full lives. But we'll have to let go, within reason, to be able to see them fly away. roia

Dear Scared: your message really hit home with me. Teaching my kids to drive, then watching them drive off alone was the most nerve-wracking thing I've ever done as a parent. However, now that they have their own cars and have been driving for 5-6 years, they are confident good drivers. The more they drive, the better they get about their own judgment and anticipating what others will do. It's the other people on the road that still scare me. What can you do? Try to have your daughter drive as often as possible, with you beside her. With your driving experience, you're probably her best teacher. Take deep breaths, try not to communicate too much anxiety. Easier said than done, I know. Cathy

I'm worried my son is not ready to be a driver

Oct 2004

Need advice, suggestions, recommendations and support re:whether my 15 yr. old son should get his license, starting with a permit, and what would be the best way for him to be taught to drive if and when I feel he is responsible enough to start the process. As a single mom, I don't feel this is something I would feel confident teaching him, and I worry about him speeding, wrecking the car, etc. He has trouble focusing, remembering his things, and thinks rules are made to be broken. How have other parents handled this? Advice, suggestions appreciated. bd

I have a son much like yours. I told him last year that if he wanted to get his permit and learn to drive, he had to demonstrate over the school year that he could handle other adult responsibilities in a mature way, like keeping a cheque register and balancing his chequebook, doing the routine maintenance required as a computer owner, etc. He didn't make it, and though I know he wishes he were learning to drive (it would cut his school commute in half), I think he also knows he's not up to the responsibility.

When the day does come, I found a driving school on the internet that caters to kids with learning and attention problems and doesn't cost a huge amount more than the others. (Don't remember its name, sorry.)