Why Teens Should Drive

By Erica Loop
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When a teen drives, it enables him to rely less on you and to take responsibility for his own transportation. With the proper training and supervision and graduated driver licensing programs, driving provides a pathway that helps teens become autonomous young adults.

Your Teen Needs the Independence

Your teen is gaining the independence he'll need to become an adult. Driving is a major step toward autonomy, as it provides your child with the freedom to travel without needing transportation from an adult. This also allows him to feel more like an adult, while showing you that he's responsible.

Helping Out at Home

As part of becoming an independent adult, your teen needs to accept more responsibilities at home. Driving is a privilege that allows your teen to further help your family. When your teen drives, he can go to the grocery store or give you a ride to work. Your teen's ability to drive may eliminate some -- or all -- your chauffeuring duties. Parents surveyed in the "Evaluation of Oregon's Graduated Driver Licensing Program" reported that their teens' ability to drive came with a significant level of convenience and contributed to a new sense of flexibility in their own lives, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Driving shows that your teen can take in the responsibilities of a young adult and help her family. Taking on chores, especially those that involve the responsibility of operating a motor vehicle, can help your teen to gain self-discipline and understand what it takes to function as an adult within a family unit.

Going to Work

An after-school or summer job can help your teen develop skills such as money management and being able to work well with others, according to family relations extension educator Colleen Gengler on the University of Minnesota Extension website. Not being able to drive may limit if your teen can work -- and where and when your teen can work. If he has to rely on you for rides to and from a job, he may need to turn down jobs that don't coincide with your schedule. Driving enables your teen to make his own money, show you that he's responsible and can contribute to the upkeep of the car he's using. The ability to drive to and from work is important enough that it has affected teen driving regulations in certain states. For example, Colorado only allows teens to drive between 5 a.m. and midnight, unless the driver is traveling back and forth to work. Likewise, Florida restricts 16- and 17-year-olds to driving between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m., unless the teen is traveling between work and home.

Teens Can Be Safe

The inability to recognize potentially hazardous situations, underestimating road dangers and engaging in risky behaviors such as speeding make teens three times more likely, per each mile of driving, than adults ages 20 and up to die in a car crash, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even though this is a scary statistic, your teen can drive safely. Graduated driver licensing -- or GDL -- involves a three-stage program in which teens have a six-month or longer supervised learning period, an intermediate period of driving in low risk situations and finally full licensure. This is not a nation-wide program. You should check with your state's diver's laws for information on GDL. GDL laws also require teens to complete 50 hours of certified driver's education training, have experience driving at nighttime under supervision and wait until age 18 until they are eligible for a full, unrestricted license. GDL programs can reduce fatalities by 38 percent and injury crashes by 40 percent, notes the CDC. This shows that with the correct training and restrictions, your teen can drive with fewer risks.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.