While most teens are probably chomping at the bit to get their driver’s license and do some driving, there are other teens that are going to be reluctant to get behind the wheel. Whether they just have no interest in driving or they are actually afraid of the entire concept, it will be more difficult to get some teens excited about driving than others.
Having a teen driver in your household can be nerve-wracking, but they can also be a big help. My parents loved having a new chauffer for the other kids. They leapt at the chance to send me on errands once I could drive by myself. While teenage drivers are the most likely demographic to get into an accident, simply because they are the most statistically impulsive and have the least amount of experience on the road, a teen driver can benefit your household and provide them with the independence they are probably craving.
If you have a teenager who doesn’t seem very excited about getting behind the wheel, here are some tips for encouraging them to learn to drive:
1. Give them a car. Hear us out—you don’t have to buy a new car or even really give them a car that is for their use exclusively. That said, when they feel some sort of ownership over a vehicle, they are much more likely to be willing to learn to drive it. When they have no vehicle to drive, it probably does not make much sense to the average teenager to invest the time and money in taking a driving course. Again, you don’t actually have to buy them a car (though a reasonably priced used vehicle could be the perfect option as an “extra” car for your family that your teenager mainly uses), but giving them at least symbolic ownership over a vehicle can encourage them to learn to drive. If you are interested in buying a car that is almost exclusively going to be used by your teenager, look for inexpensive, safe sedans. Kia has a variety of inexpensive options that are ideal for new drivers. They are both fun to drive and come with plenty of safety features that will help keep your teen safe on the road.
2. Stop playing the taxi driver. When you’re always on call to drive your teen wherever they want or need to go, there is no impetus for them to actually get their driver’s license. If you as a parent ever feel like you are taxiing your kids around and one of those kids is old enough to be driving themselves, stop playing the taxi driver. Most teens will naturally want to drive themselves instead of constantly being driven around by a parent, but others will need a little more encourage. It’s much easier to simply ask your mom for a ride somewhere than to put in the time and effort to get your own license. It’s not as cool, but especially if some of their friends already have licenses and they don’t have to ask for a ride very often, there might be dwindling cause for your teen to get their own license unless you refuse to be their taxi.
3. Make it easy for them. If your teenager is already inundate with your activities, they might be putting off getting their license not because they want to, but because they simply do not have time in their schedule to get their license. Some schools solve this problem by offering a driver’s education class during school hours, but if their only option is to take an after school driving course, they might find that they have difficulty finding one that fits their needs. Shop around for driving schools and find one that provides them with the training that they need, at a time that works for their schedule. If necessary, let them opt out of one of their other after school activities for the couple of weeks it takes for them to take driver’s education. For the teen that’s just too busy to learn but who could benefit from having their own license (you won’t have to shuttle them from activity to activity anymore), this might be your only option.
4. Take away the fear. I had a friend who did not get her driver’s license until she was twenty-three, because she was afraid of the whole concept of driving. And, objectively, I understood her fear, even though I had been driving since I was fourteen. Cars are big and they get into crashes and there are lots of things that can go wrong while you are driving. You could be the best driver in the world and you simply cannot account for other people on the road not paying attention or actively acting in a dangerous way. The truth is, however, that most people will never be in a serious car accident. Many people drive for decades and are never in even a minor accident. The only way to beat the fear that your teen has of driving is to get them to drive. Put them in the driver’s seat and make them drive circles around a parking lot until they are familiar with your vehicle and how it works. Take them out on a deserted road, only when they are completely comfortable with driving in a parking lot. Getting rid of the fear of driving is going to take some time, but immersion therapy is the best way.