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When your kids start to drive, be prepared to pay: Drivers education classes, increased insurance rates, more gasoline, and maybe even their own car. Ouch.
You can always urge your child to wait till later to drive – say until, oh, 35. But while that may not be practical, some kids decide on their own not to get their driver’s license the second they become eligible – like my own son. He simply wasn’t interested in driving at 15 or 16. At age 18, he’s just now deciding it’s time.
And that’s not a bad thing. Or even that rare a thing. We know other kids who didn’t buckle up the minute they were eligible. While there are no studies on the issue, our insurance agent agrees – and he credits schools cutting back on drivers education, which was once free and now can run hundreds of dollars.
“That’s not so unusual anymore,” says Dave Hallada of State Farm Insurance in Lakeview, Mich. “There are lots of kids that wait. When we were kids, you just got your license as soon as you could, but I think not having drivers ed offered through the schools – where it was free – has helped that change.”
Licensing processes and ages vary widely across the 50 states: Youngsters in South Dakota can drive at age 14 and 3 months if they’ve taken drivers ed. Several other states, including Michigan, allow kids to drive at age 15. New Jersey is the strictest – you must be 17 before you can drive on your own.
If you’re 18 or older, you don’t have to take driver education (although it’s strongly recommended). In most states, you just have to pass a vision test, a written test, and a driving test (which often charges a fee). Some states also require you to complete a minimum of 30 days of practice driving on a temporary instruction permit (TIP).
Wherever you live, convincing your teen to wait will mean more chauffeuring, but there are some great reasons to be part of the trend of waiting till later to get your kids their license…
By waiting until after he turned 18, our son was able to save the costs for drivers ed classes, which can run anywhere from $25 all the way up to $500. But the big savings are in not paying for two years’ worth of insurance. Those costs can run 50 percent of your current premium. Hallada said there are so many variables in calculating insurance, from location to style of driving to the type of coverage you carry to even your kids’ grades in school (really!) that estimating savings is an impossible task. But if you follow the rule of thumb of adding an additional 50 percent to your premium, it’s something you can guesstimate easily enough. Given the median age of 16 for driving, these would be insurance cost savings:
No need for their own car
Finding the right car, negotiating the price, and paying for gas and maintenance can stretch the patience and wallets of everyone involved. (And even when they do get their license, AAA says teen drivers who share their parents’ cars drive less and also embark on fewer “purposeless” trips – which means fewer tickets, fewer crashes, and fewer injuries and deaths.)
According to an analysis of crash data completed by AAA, summer is the deadliest time of year for teen drivers and passengers. Seven of the top 10 deadliest days of the year occurring between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays. Kathleen Marvaso, a AAA vice president, says, “Life feels more care-free when school’s out and teens have more opportunities to drive or ride in cars late at night with other teens” – which she calls a potentially deadly mix. Waiting to drive means fewer “deadly days” and a potentially more responsible driver when they finally arrive.
No need to drive on campus
If you can get your child through high school without succumbing to the urge to drive, you may be good through at least the first year of college. For many, going to college means there’s not really a need to drive: in fact, many colleges don’t allow freshman cars on campus. With classes, food, housing, and activities all available on campus or at worst a couple blocks away, many students who have their licenses choose not to bring their cars with them – and because finding a parking space can be such a hassle.
More time with mom and dad
You know how we’re always being told that the best families eat meals and talk together? You can also spend quality time together in the car. Turn off the radio, unplug your teens from their iPods, and chat. Find out what happened in school. And tell them a funny story from your day. It’s amazing how interesting your kids’ lives are. And maybe even yours to them.
On the other hand, Justin McNaull, a AAA diretor, cautions that putting aside some of the initial steps in driving can actually make the teen driver less safe.
“Wearing my safety and public policy hat, the things that you ‘save’ by waiting until age 18 can include avoiding driver ed requirements, avoiding practice driving requirements, bypassing mandatory holding periods for learner’s permits, and avoiding limits on night driving and passengers for new teen drivers,” McNaull says. “But these are some of the key features of graduated driver licensing, which has across the last 15 years saved thousands of teen lives by gradually easing teens into progressively more complicated driving conditions once they’ve gained experience and maturity. Waiting until age 18 offers short cuts and savings – time and financial – but not all short cuts are good ones.”
Bottom line: You save money the longer your teens wait, but when they do get behind the wheel, make sure they ease into it.