License to Drive – Six Steps to Get Your Teen Safely Behind the Wheel

The day your child starts to learn how to drive is an exciting day for them–and a potentially terrifying day for you! As you get ready to put your teenager on the road toward driving independence, make sure he or she is prepared with this must-do checklist:

1. Enroll your teen in a driver’s education course.

Many high schools offer elective classes in driver’s education to students throughout the year. Independent, state-accredited driving schools that offer weekend or evening instruction are also an option. In lieu of formal study, several states will accept proof of completion (signed by a parent) of 30 hours of driving time.

2. Get in plenty of practice on the road.

Find an empty parking lot or a street with light traffic to start with driving basics, then move to more well-traveled roads and highways as your teen’s skills and confidence increase. Consider additional formal training as well, such as specialized defensive driving courses and high-performance driving schools that give teens hands-on training in driving during emergency situations and bad weather.

3. Study the written materials carefully.

Each state has a driver’s manual that outlines the rules of the road, driving techniques, road signs and other practical driving information. These manuals are provided to students enrolled in a driver’s education course, or can be picked up at the local driver’s license office. In many cases, you can find and download a copy of a driver manual from your state’s official Web site. Interactive practice tests may also be available online.

4. Make sure you have an official copy of your child’s birth certificate and proper identification.

When you accompany your teen to the Department of Motor Vehicles to register for a learner’s permit, you’ll likely need to sign a consent form if he or she is 17 or younger. In addition, your child will need to bring a Social Security card, as well as proof of identity and date of birth, which can include a learner’s permit, a state-issued identification card, a passport or an official copy of a birth certificate. Photocopies are unacceptable, so if you do not have the original birth certificate handy, you can order a copy well in advance through official document service providers, such as, a government authorized service, or directly through your state’s vital records office or Web site.

5. Add your child to your car insurance.

Discount insurance rates are popular for new drivers, and prices vary from plan to plan. Reduced fees for good students (B average or above) are common, as are deals for teens who have completed defensive driving courses or remained accident-free for a year after receiving their licenses. Contact your insurance agent to learn which discounts may apply to your new driver.

6. Discuss driving restrictions.

Many states have laws that restrict drivers from having more than two passengers in the car if the driver is under the age of 21, unless a parent or guardian is present or the passengers are immediate family members. In many states, the supervising driver must be 21 or older, have a valid driver’s license and must ride in the front passenger seat. Check with your local Department of Motor Vehicles to see what rules apply where you live.

Parents should set their own limits until they feel comfortable with their teen’s driving experience, such as no driving with passengers for the first six months after receiving their driver’s license, no cell phone use, restrictions on stereo volume and setting a curfew to avoid late-night driving.