A novice driver is ready for their license when they can drive without being guided by their instructor or coach. It has nothing to do with the number of months the state requires them to hold a learners permit, or whether they are doing well in school or if they met some significant milestone. A license is not a reward for good behavior or for meeting some goal. Unfortunately parents often use “getting a license” as a carrot for eliciting desired behavior from their teenager that has nothing to do with whether the teen is actually ready to be on the road as a solo driver.
Being ready to be a solo driver means the driver has met specific objectives that relate to driving. It also means the driver has a healthy respect for driving and understands and is ready for the responsibility of driving. How do we know they are ready? The best acid test I know is if you can sit in the passenger seat next to them and feel absolutely comfortable reading a book or not paying attention to their every move in any kind of traffic.
Often parents are lulled into thinking that their teen is ready because they are “doing a good job” of driving back and forth to the same location day in and day out. Of course they will start to look like a “good driver” because they know that terrain, they know that route, they are comfortable with it, but that is not a good test of their ability. Any novice driver needs to be exposed to a wide variety of traffic and locations so that they can develop the necessary multi-tasking skills. They need to be able to navigate 5:00 pm traffic downtown at an interchange where four major highways intersect. They need to get exposure to light rail, heavy rail, heavy pedestrian traffic, one-way streets, reversible lanes, rush-hour traffic. They get exposed to these situations as they continue to develop skills.
I have written about the fact that there are levels of skill that need to be developed over time. Most novice drivers are licensed with a basic understanding of the rules and very basic abilities. Decision-making and judgment skills aren’t even being taken into account, while in fact, those are the most critical skills that need to be developed.
We tend to think that learning to drive is no big deal and it is easy. It really isn’t. It is a complex and on-going process that requires dedication and time. If the objective is to pass the test at the MVD, that can be accomplished in a week or two. If the objective is to develop a safe and responsible driver, that takes time and effort and there really is no short, quick and easy way to do it. Just remember, if you don’t take the time to properly prepare them now, you may suffer the consequences later.