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Four Benefits of Teaching Your Teenager To Drive

Last week I continued our discussion on how we can help our teenagers become responsible adults and I spoke of the importance of teaching them good money habits: https://attunefp.com/blog/four-ways-to-help-your-teenager-manage-their-money-responsibly.  Today, I want to discuss with you the benefits of teaching your teenager to drive.

My sixteen-year-old son is learning how to drive and it has been fun and also stressful teaching him to become a proficient driver over the past 6 months.  My wife and I were not really looking forward to the day he obtained his driving permit because we know the next step for him was to actually start learning how to drive!  As parents, our natural instinct is to keep our children safe.  Letting them take control of a 3,000-pound automobile going upwards of 60 miles per hour on the freeway seems contrary to our parental nature.   However, if we are to help our kids function in society, they will need to learn how to drive.  We won’t always be there to shuttle them around when they are adults (nor would we want to).  Yes, there is Lyft and Uber but I think we will still need to drive ourselves around at some point in our lives.

To a teenager, obtaining a driver’s license is a big milestone as it means more independence and freedom.  However, this newfound freedom comes with plenty of risks.  Here are a few sobering statistics from A DoSomething.Org study:

  1.   1 in 5 of 16-year-old drivers has an accident within their first year of driving
  2.   16-year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age.
  3.   56% of teens said they talk on the phone while driving.
  4.   Statistics show that 16 and 17-year-old driver death rates increase with each additional passenger.
  5.   Talking on a cell phone can double the likelihood of an accident as well as slow a young driver’s reaction time down to that of a 70-year-old.

Given these sobering statistics it is tempting to avoid teaching our teenagers to drive altogether and just have them learn to drive when they’re adults.  Waiting for our teenagers to become adults before they learn how to drive will indeed keep them safe but it will rob us of a wonderful opportunity to teach our teenagers important life skills.  Besides, how often will we have the chance to have their undivided attention for 15 minutes to an hour a day, 3 to 5 days a week, for up to six months?

My son will be taking his driver’s test in about two weeks.  Here are four benefits of teaching my son to drive that I discovered over the course of the last 6 months:

1.  Opportunity to Take The Initiative.

 On most days my son was excited to drive but, on some days, he was not in the mood and did not want to go out driving.  I respected his decision and we did not drive that day.  On the days when we did drive, I always asked him how long he wanted the lesson to be.  To a new driver, even 15 minutes can seem like a long time.  We only drove for as long as he felt comfortable.  We also talked about what he wanted to work on before we started driving.  Whether it was practicing making left hand or right hand turns, changing lanes, or city driving, I asked for his input and focused on what he wanted to learn.  At the same time, I encouraged him to try a different driving skill each lesson as long as he was comfortable with it.  In learning how to drive, my son also learned how to take control of what he wanted to learn.

2.  Opportunity To Improve Communication.  

In teaching my son how to drive, I became very aware of how I was communicating with him.   I understood that yelling is never a good idea as it will only make him more nervous (plus increase the risk of an accident) and criticizing him will not help him gain confidence.  Providing positive feedback and reinforcement made the driving lessons much more enjoyable and less stressful.  Plus, it made driving more fun.  To reduce the risk of stress, it was important that I gave clear and calm directions and with enough time for him to do what I asked.  “We are going to make a left-hand turn at the next stop sign” was better than “turn left now!”.    I also took the opportunity to ask questions as we are driving when it was appropriate.  However, I did not pepper him with too many questions as it would only make him distracted and nervous.  If he was doing something incorrect like driving too fast or too slowly, I would ask him to tell me what the speed limit was.  If he was driving to closely to the car in front of him, I would ask him to tell me how much space he should have between cars.  After the lesson was over, I would ask him how he felt he did and we would talk about what he did really well and what he could have done better.   In learning how to drive, we both are learning how to communicate not only as father and son but as a teacher and student, and more importantly as two people collaborating in order to reach a shared goal.

3,  Opportunity To Reinforce Responsible Behavior.

 Learning to drive has given my son a greater appreciation of the responsibility and risks of driving a car.  We talked about the thrill of driving but it also gave us an opportunity to talk about how driving too fast, too distracted, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol can cause an accident, injury or death. The best way to drive responsibly is to develop good driving habits.  Teaching my son to drive has given me the opportunity to show him what good driving habits are whenever we go out on the road.  I also am more aware of how I drive especially when my son is in the car and of the need to also display good driving habits myself.  Being a responsible driving also means driving with your emotions under control and to avoid getting angry.   I stressed to my son the importance of being a “defensive” and courteous driver.  Turning the other cheek is a value that can be applied to driving as well as in our daily lives.  Kids learn by example so if I show that I am consistently obeying he rules of the road and practicing defensive driving etiquette, hopefully my son will as well.  In learning how to drive, my son is not only learning how to drive responsibly, but is also reinforcing the need to be a responsible adult.   

4.  Opportunity to Have Additional Money Discussions.

 Diving is expensive.  A car requires fuel, maintenance, and insurance.  We talked about all of the costs that go into driving our car every day.   It was eye opening for him to see how much money it takes to own a car.  This led to a larger discussion of on the need for overall financial responsibility, the need for a budget, and the need to understand how much income it really takes to live in the Bay Area!

Teaching our teenagers to drive might be one of the more stressful and difficult things we will do with our kids.   Obviously, there are very real risks with driving.  However, dealing with and managing risk is a part of life.   Learning how to drive is an excellent way for our teenagers to learn about, cope with, and appropriately handle the potential risks and dangers that they will face as adults.  

For information on the steps you and your teenager will need to take in order to obtain their driver’s license go to the California DMV website:  https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/coi/teen/teen


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This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information, and provided by Attune Financial Planning.  Please consult your financial, legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information only.