A Guide to Helping Your Teenager Get Their Driver’s License

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Key takeaways...

  • Teenagers dream about their first driver’s license, so you must have a gameplan
  • Being actively involved as a parent will en sure your new driver gets enough experience
  • Knowing your states laws so your teen drives safely is half the battle

There was a time when parents played a more active role in their children’s journey to earning their driver’s license.  Some of us remember our parents taking the lead in teaching driving lessons.

Perhaps you were part of this generation – the one wherein it was a tradition for dads and moms to show their kids how to drive a car (see video below for parents and kids communicating about the process of learning to drive).

Some say that this practice is no longer the norm. Nowadays, most teenagers go to driving schools to learn how to drive.

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What are the reasons behind this change?

For one, there are laws in most states which oblige new drivers, particularly those 19 and below, to take formal driving lessons. This requirement usually includes drivers education and behind-the-wheel training.

Drivers education is the so-called knowledge part. This is where students learn about how automobiles work, traffic regulations, safe driving practices, etc.

Meanwhile, the behind-the-wheel course is where students learn how to drive. It’s all about hands-on training with a professional driving instructor.

In places like Georgia, the requirement is at least 30 hours of driver’s education and 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training. A certificate of completion is provided once students finish these courses. This certificate is then submitted to the DMV as part of the licensing requirements.

Another reason for this change is that parents have little time to spare because of their jobs. Employees spend an average of 40 hours a week in their working. On top of the 40 hours, many of them clock in an additional 7 hours of overtime weekly.

In a 2015 Pew Research survey, 56 percent of the parents admitted that they struggle to balance their family and career obligations.

Meanwhile, a study by charity Working Families and Bright Horizons showed that at least 40 percent of parents claimed that their jobs have prevented them from tucking their kids to sleep.

Given this picture, it is not hard to fathom why most working parents these days opt to take a backseat when it comes to their children learning how to drive (plus adding a teen to your insurance can be costly).

Bringing Back the Tradition

It makes sense why parents spearheading their children’s driving lessons is a dying tradition. There are laws requiring teenagers to learn from a professional. Plus, parents are simply too tired and stressed to get involved in this endeavor.

However, there are still those who think that leaving this tradition in the past is not acceptable. Effort must be exerted to keep it alive, and the CDC shows parents are still critical to early driving skills:

Learning how to drive is an important milestone in a teenager’s life. It is a momentous event that parents should not miss. After all, this is perhaps one of the few bonding opportunities you have left with your child before they leave the nest.

What Can You Do to Help Your Child Get Their License?

Let’s make one thing clear first: The existence of these laws that require teens to take formal driving lessons doesn’t prohibit parents from playing an active role in this endeavor.

Simply put, you can still teach your child how to drive just like your dad or mom taught you. More importantly, you can help them get their driver’s license. Read on to know how you can make this happen:

Enroll Them in a Drivers Ed Online Course

As mentioned earlier, taking drivers education is mandatory for teen drivers in 32 states (see the table below). This course can be taken in person or online. The latter is the popular choice these days because of the convenience it offers.

StateRequire DE? To get license 14-18Online DE allowed?Post-18 requirements? DE, permit, supervised driving?
AlabamaNoNoNo
AlaskaNoNoNo
ArizonaNoNoNo
ArkansasNoNoNo
CaliforniaYesYesNo
ColoradoNoYesNo
ConnecticutYesNoYes (permit)
DelawareYesNoNo
FloridaNoYesYes (DE)
GeorgiaYesYesNo
HawaiiYesNoNo
IdahoYesYesNo
IllinoisYesNoNo
IndianaYesYesNo
IowaYesNoNo
KansasYesYesNo
KentuckyNoNoNo
LouisianaYesNoYes (DE)
MaineYesNoNo
MarylandYesNoYes (DE and permit)
MassachusettsYesNoNo
MichiganYesNoYes (permit & practice
MinnesotaYesNoNo
MississippiNoNoNo
MissouriNoNoNo
MontanaNoNoNo
NebraskaNoYesNo
NevadaYesYesNo
New HampshireYesNoNo
New JerseyNoNoYes (permit &
New MexicoYesNoYes (DE)
New YorkNoNoYes (permit and DE)
North CarolinaYesNoNo
North DakotaYesNoNo
OhioYesYesNo
OklahomaNoYesNo
OregonNoNoNo
PennsylvaniaYesYesNo
Rhode IslandYesNoNo
South CarolinaYesNoNo
South DakotaNoNoNo
TennesseeNoNoNo
TexasYesYesYes (DE)
UtahYesYesNo
VermontYesNoNo
VirginiaYesYesYes (permit)
WashingtonYesNoNo
West VirginiaNoNoYes (permit)
WisconsinYesYesNo
WyomingNoNoNo
District of ColumbiaNoNoNo

Basically, a driver’s ed online course makes it possible for your teenager to learn wherever they are. As long as they have an Internet connection, they can access the learning materials whenever they want to.

Another good thing about an online course is that your child can study at their own pace. If there’s a topic they don’t fully understand, they can opt to allot more study time on it. They are not pressured to keep up with the pace of other students which is the case in traditional drivers ed classes.

What’s your role as a parent in this aspect? Well, you can take charge of searching for a good online driver’s ed course.

Did you know that the fail rate in most states for the DMV written exam is high? In California, for example, more than 50 percent of those who took the test in 2016 failed.

Hence, it is important that you carefully select the program you’re going to enroll your child in. Ensure that it is a DMV-accredited online driver’s education course. Furthermore, check if the program has been successful in helping students pass the DMV written exam. Look for testimonials from old students on the provider’s website or on online business directories.

Allot Time for Practice Driving

Most states have a Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system. In this program, teen drivers need to go through stages and fulfill some requirements before they can get their full license. This system is meant to lessen car collisions involving new teen drivers.

Different states have different rules for their GDL programs. However, a common requirement is for teenagers to undergo hours of supervised driving. This is on top of the mandatory 6 hours of hands-on training under a professional driving instructor.

In Georgia, teens aged 16 must finish 40 hours of driving under supervision to obtain their Intermediate or Class D license. Of the 40 hours, 6 must be completed at night.

In most states, a parent or a guardian needs to certify in writing that the child has completed the mandatory supervised driving hours. Clearly, this is one requirement wherein your child would need your help.

Ensure They Abide by the Rules

Your child needs to comply with some restrictions until they earn their full-privilege license. This may include a so-called driving curfew wherein they cannot be behind the wheel during a period of time, usually at night until dawn. They may also be prohibited from driving with a passenger below 21 years old.

Most states also have a Zero Tolerance law which strictly prohibits teens from drinking and driving. There’s also the Anti-Distracted Driving law which bans the use of electronic devices while a person is behind the wheel.

You need to see to it that your child follows all the rules. If they fail to comply, their permit can get suspended, jeopardizing their chances of getting their full license.

Plus they will most certainly need some kind of insurance, so knowing which companies might provided the best rates for teen is important and ensuring they know where there insurance card is and what it covers is also critical.

In summary, getting a driver’s license is not going to be a walk in the park for your teenager. They are going to need all the help you can give to succeed in this endeavor. So, be there for this important milestone. Trust us, you won’t regret doing so.

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