Is your teen ready to drive?

By Kelly Herdrich, Contributing writer
Published On: Aug 21 2012 04:04:14 PM EDT
Updated On: Mar 05 2013 09:14:18 AM EST

iStock / sonyae

One of the few remaining rites of passage for America's teenagers, the act of getting a driver's license at 16 has caused controversy in recent years.

With a higher driving age in the United Kingdom and a call by some U.S. safety groups to raise the driving age in America, parents may be questioning whether their 16 year olds are really ready to take the wheel. The questions don't go away with the license, either, as parents wonder how to keep their children safe and try to teach them the responsibility that goes with a driver's license.

Recent controversies

Recent controversy has erupted worldwide concerning the best driving age for teenagers. In 2008, US News & World Report shared an IIHS press release urging for an increase in the U.S. driving age to save lives.

That came on the heels of a BBC News article reporting that the U.K.'s House of Commons transport committee recommended raising the U.K. driving age from 17 to 18.

Parents can't help but wonder if driving at 16 is the right choice for their children.

Setting requirements

When determining whether your 16-year-old is ready to drive, it's important to keep the concerns of these studies and reports in mind.

In addition, parents should consider their teenager as an individual. Your child doesn't need to be a straight-A student to show that they are responsible enough to get a driver's license, but setting a minimum acceptable GPA before allowing your child to learn to drive is reasonable. Similarly, keeping house rules such as respecting curfew, doing chores and acting respectful are all reasonable requirements.

Not only is it reasonable for parents to expect their children to demonstrate a certain level of maturity before allowing them to get a driver's license, but also it's important to continue to expect responsible behavior after a driver's license is obtained.

For example, expecting students to maintain the grade point average previously set is fair. Teenagers who let their grades fall, start missing curfew, or are otherwise disobedient shouldn't be able to use their license as they wish.

Children need guidance when getting the taste of freedom that a driver's license provides. Be sure to set guidelines for driving concerning the amount of teenage passengers allowed in the car, the time the car should be returned home, and who needs to put gas in it.

Determining whether a 16-year-old is ready to drive can be one of the hardest decisions for a parent. Not only do parents need to consider laws and safety recommendations, but also they need to think about what's best for their child. Once a driver's license is obtained, setting guidelines and standards for behavior is a must to keep your new driver safe and to teach them about responsibility and maturity.

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