To most teens, freedom and independence are necessary to live the perfect life, and what better way to get it than driving a car?
With cars, teens can transport themselves anywhere they need to be and no one has to be around to watch over them. Teen drivers are thought to be reckless and immature but, really, how many adults are perfect drivers? Many adults blame teens for most car accidents when it’s really not all our fault. I think that teens can even be better drivers than adults because they are more attentive and can react quickly.
For you teens who are looking forward to getting on the road, here’s what you can expect.
Kids as young as 15 are on the road today. But at that age, you have to meet certain requirements to be eligible for a hardship license. This means that at 15, you have a need to drive by yourself because maybe you have a single parent that has a full time job and you need to help drive your younger sibling. This is only one scenario, but there are also aspects that could qualify you for a hardship license.
Also, at the age of 15 you can get a learners permit, even if you don’t qualify for a hardship license. That means that you are just learning to drive and you have to have someone 21 or older in the vehicle with you at all times. There are a few options when it comes to getting your permit. One of these options is the classic driver’s education course that is usually offered locally. The Driving School of North Texas here in McKinney is one of those locations, and you pay a set fee for the class — that’s about $360 for the full teenage course. Every day for three weeks — two hours a day during the week — you attend a class that includes drive times, where you get in a car with an instructor and learn the basics “hands on.” These classes will provide the test for you to get your permit. They will also prepare you to take the test for your license. These classes are all inclusive, but they can often get pricey.
Parent-taught driver’s education is another option that many teens chose because it is only $20-$40 and you receive a booklet in the mail and papers where you log all of your driving time to make sure that you have practiced all of the required skills. In this program, your parents teach you every step of the way and it is your responsibility to go take the test for your permit and make sure that you are prepared for your license test. Many professionals do not recommend this because it puts a ton of pressure on you, the teenager, and is the easiest way for your parents to teach you their bad habits.
Another option is online driver’s education. Websites such as driversed.com will teach you the basics of driving at your own pace in the comfort of your own home. It is about $160 and you get all of the in-class learning on your computer and your own pace and time. This is what I did, and I highly recommend it. Personally, I have a very hectic schedule and taking two hours out of my day everyday for driving school was not going to be possible. Although my parents did have to do all of the hands-on driving with me instead of an instructor, I loved being able to take the class at my own speed and even if it did happen at 3 a.m. it still got done and I didn’t have to change anything about my schedule to accommodate it.
Here is something I did work into my schedule — and I highly recommend it.
Driving defensively and aggressively are polar opposites, and this past weekend I had the opportunity to learn how to drive defensively for free. About once a year a program called Driver’s Edge comes to Texas Motor Speedway and teaches teens how to properly drive defensively. The instructors are all professional drivers and at the program you are taught proper driving skills, basic care of your vehicle, and how to easily avoid accidents.
The class lasts for four hours and you rotate around four stations: Basic maintenance of your vehicle, How to swerve properly if there is something in the road and using abs brakes, Talking to an officer about safety precautions while driving, and a Skid exercise where you are taught how to safely maneuver a vehicle if you start to spin out of control.
The skid exercise and the abs and swerve exercise are all hands on with a driver in BMW’s. The instructors set up a course and let you drive and experience the proper way to respond to these incidents. I have gone to this program for the past two years and have loved it both times I have gone. At the end of the program you are given a shirt, hat, and a care pack to put in your car that has jumper cables, tire pressure gauge, and many other useful items.
You can take this program if you have your permit or license, but you have to register weeks in advance because the classes fill up quickly. At the end you also receive a certificate of completion that, if you are eligible, you can send to your insurance and use as a deduction for a teen driver. I highly recommend going to this program because it is fun and helpful. It’s always better when you grab a few friends and all take the classes together because you can all ride in the cars together when you drive and everyone really does have a lot of fun.
Drivers Edge is sponsored by Bridgestone, and driversedge.org has all of the course dates and descriptions. This is the best program I have ever been to about driving and I recommend it to anyone that is starting to drive!
Driving is one of the biggest steps towards the freedom and independence that all of us teens crave and it’s very important to make sure it is taken seriously and taught properly so that all teens are aware of how to react in different situations. When you go to get your license don’t forget your VOE and social security card, because they seem to be the most commonly forgotten items.
Teen Talk columnist Christine Baker is a senior at McKinney High School. Watch for her column on Fridays.