To your teenager, getting her driver's license may seem as necessary as food and water. But the reasons a teen needs one vary. School location, commuting time and extracurricular activities certainly make getting a driver's license easier and sometimes necessary, but it's not without risks. The age when teens can get a license varies among states and could be as early as 14 or as late as 17, with 16 being the most common age. Given that car accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it's worth considering your teen's individual needs before letting her sign up for a driver's test.
If you live a long distance from the school, having a teen who can drive herself there is a weight off everyone's shoulders. Some states issue school licenses -- for the express purpose of driving to school -- for teens younger than the standard licensing age. Being able to drive herself to school enables a teen to stay late for sports practice or arrive early for extra help from a teacher rather than cutting her time short because the bus is leaving or you have to pick up another child.
The best piano instructor in the state, the all-star soccer club, the elite dance studio are often far from home. For a teenager who is seriously committed to an extracurricular activity, driving herself to practices, competitions and lessons can be especially helpful. Shuttling your teen to and from an especially intense extracurricular activity is also hard on you, not to mention any other children you have to bring along with you.
Teens who work after school or on weekends may need a license to safely transport themselves. Especially if a teen works odd hours or late at night, you don't necessarily want him relying on someone else for a ride or taking public transportation. If he works in a field that requires short, but frequent travel, such as a delivery person or a pet sitter, he will need a driver's license to do his job without tying up another adult driver for several hours.
While your teen doesn't technically need to drive to see his friends, having a driver's license can make things much easier and potentially safer, especially as more of his peers are also driving. Many states prohibit newly licensed teens from driving with peers in the car until after a certain period, such as six months -- and with good reason, as the National Institute of Health cites social pressure and desire to impress friends socially as a key risk factor in teen driving accidents. Still, even if he drives alone, having a license allows him to meet friends at the movies or take a day trip to the lake or beach without getting rides from other, potentially less safe, young drivers.