Convincing parents you're ready to drive

Youths enjoying the ride being driven by a teen driver

You've passed! Oh, you were nervous all right. And the burly state trooper conducting your test never cracked a smile the whole time.

Nevertheless, you somehow managed to put your dad’s car through the assigned maneuvers and to park it like a pro.

Yes, you are now the proud possessor of a driver’s license!

Somehow, though, your parents do not seem to share your excitement.

When you asked your dad to let you use the car this weekend, all you got was a vague, “I’ll think about it.” And when you pressed him for an answer, he said, “No!”

“That’s not fair!” you say. “I've got a license!”

With that new driver’s license safely tucked away in your wallet, your dreams of driving the family car seem close to fulfillment.

But when your parents seem less than enthralled at the prospect, it can be crushing.

 How can you convince your folks that you are ready to drive?

Your Parents’ Point of View

Obtaining a driver’s license is something to be pleased with. But driving is not a right. It is a privilege, subject to the judgment not only of local authorities but also of your parents.

 And your parents may fear your becoming another highway fatality statistic.

 One mother said:

Last week my son passed his driving test. Since then, I can’t sleep. Yesterday, he drove my car for the first time by himself. It was the longest drive in my life.”

Financial concerns also enter into the picture. Car-insurance companies automatically raise premiums when a teenager is added to a family’s list of drivers.

Another driver means added wear and tear on the car—and more repairs.

And while your health and safety are of paramount concern to your parents, the thought of a dent in their car’s shiny new fender no doubt crosses their mind.

Proving Faithful in Small Things

The Family Handbook of Adolescence tells parents:

The best indicator of driving responsibility is the adolescent’s history of responsibility in other matters. When the teenager can be trusted to follow rules and is generally reliable, it is likely that these same traits will control his or her behavior while driving.” 

So before whining that you ‘need the car Saturday night,’ ask yourself to what extent you have built up a record before your parents of being trustworthy and reliable.

For example, what kind of school grades have you been getting? There may seem to be little connection between passing math and getting the car keys.

But if you don’t take school seriously, why should your parents think you’ll be any more serious about obeying traffic rules?

Consider, too, your assigned household chores. If your parents can’t depend on you to take the garbage out on time, can they depend on you to be home on time from some excursion in their car?

And what about your room? If mom can’t see the floor for your clothes strewed all over it, will she be inclined to let you drive her immaculately clean car?

How safety-conscious you are in smaller matters may also have a bearing on your access to the family car.

If you are a daredevil on a skateboard, bicycle, or basketball court, your folks will think twice before entrusting you with a potential instrument of death.

Yes, you may have to make some basic changes before your parents even consider giving you the car keys.

Safe driving for teenagers

The book Licensed to Kill says:

From behind the wheel of the . . . automobile are unleashed some of the ugliest of all human emotions—hate, impatience, inconsideration and selfishness, to name but a few. . . . It seems that when one is behind the wheel of his automobile, he feels as though he is insulated from harm, and is therefore free to unleash his pent-up anger and frustrations without having to worry about reprisal.”

Far too often, though, hostile drivers do face reprisal—in the form of mangled limbs, facial contusions, broken and crushed bones, and at times death.

How, then, will you react when another driver cuts in front of you, impatiently honks his horn at you, or drives at a snail’s pace when you are in a hurry?

If you are prone to temper tantrums or displays of impatience, your parents may rightly fear that you would unleash such feelings on the road.

Honing Your Driving Skills

Dr. Robert B. McCall asks parents:

Are you comfortable with [your teenager’s] skill, attitude, patience, speed, defensiveness, and risk taking?” 

Many parents are not. You should therefore hone your driving skills beyond learning how to parallel park.

If available, have you taken seriously any driver’s training offered in school? You must know the rules of the road—not simply cram them so as to pass a test.

Remember, too, that just as one’s perceptive powers are trained “through use,” driving skills are developed through experience. “Practice, practice, practice,” advises a professional driver. “Give yourself plenty of time to feel comfortable behind the wheel.”

Some advise that a teenager acquire up to six months of driving experience before getting an unrestricted license.

After all, there is a wide spectrum of skills you must master: turns, lateral maneuvers, evasive actions, plus handling skids, grades, and heavy traffic.

The more skilled you become as a driver, the more confidence your parents will have in you.

Your parents will also be impressed if you show yourself to be safety-conscious.

Although you may view seat belts as somewhat of a nuisance, but they reduce the odds of dying in an accident by 50 percent!

It is also wise to develop a routine of safety checks (mirrors, tire inflation, door locks, fluid leaks, and so forth) before turning the key in the ignition.

“May I Use the Car?”

If you have proved yourself to be a safe driver, your parents may (perhaps reluctantly) give you access to the car.

Such access, though, is bound to be limited—at least at first.

For one thing, your parents also have transportation needs, and you cannot expect them always to drop their plans so as to accommodate yours.

Much will also depend on how you handle your new found freedom.

Bringing back the family car with an empty gas tank or a floor littered with soda cans and paper bags is a surefire way to get your driving privileges curtailed.

Your parents may want to specify (in writing if necessary) conditions for using the car.

On your part, perhaps you can agree to wash and wax the car, fill its gas tank, and check the tires and fluid levels in exchange for use of the car on a certain evening.

If you have an after-school job, you may offer to help pay for the auto insurance or other car expenses.

Your parents may rightly want to know exactly where you are going, with whom, and when you’ll get back.

After all, a driver’s license is not a license to run wild or to misbehave with the opposite sex.

So be honest with your parents, letting them know that you have nothing to hide.

And when you agree to be back by a certain hour, make it your business to keep your word. This will go a long way in seeing to it that you get to borrow the car again.

Remember, though: You have a responsibility before your parents and government authorities to obey the traffic laws.

More importantly, you have a responsibility to show respect for life—your life and that of others. So suppress the urge to show off or to take foolish risks.

Never mix drinking and driving. Drive responsibly, sanely, safely—and your parents may be glad to give you reasonable use of the family car!