Driver Education Guide for Teens

Written by Carly Hallman

For a teenager, getting a driver’s permit and eventually a driver’s license is a rite of passage. It can be very exciting to have new avenues of freedom and the ability to make sure you get where you need to go. However, many teenagers find themselves extremely stressed over learning to drive and wrangling the necessary paperwork. It’s normal to be nervous about doing something new, but with a little bit of reading, preparation, and practice, there’s no reason why getting a driver’s license should be intimidating.

Driver Education

For a lot of teenagers, driver education begins at home, but a driver’s education course is always recommended to make sure that you understand the rules and regulations of the state you live in. A driver’s education course (often shortened to “driver’s ed”) teaches the new driver about vehicle operation, traffic laws, and driving in difficult conditions, and some states require a new driver to complete this course before they are able to apply for a license. The course usually involves some practice time behind the wheel of a car with the instructor present, but if making it to a driving school isn’t feasible, there are plenty of online programs that are available. Before you sign up for an online course, check to make sure that it meets all of the requirements of your state. If you’re not sure where to look, the local DMV will have plenty of materials to get you started and may even have a driving school to recommend. There may even be a driver’s education course available at your school.

Preparing For Your Permit Test

A driving permit allows you to legally practice driving (with adult supervision) on open roads. Many states set the minimum age for getting a driver’s permit at 15, but it does vary from state to state (in South Dakota, the minimum age is 14), so you’ll want to check and see what your state requires. A permit test is a written test, not longer than an hour in length, that tests the new driver’s knowledge about road rules and laws. Make no mistake, you’ll need to study! Many teens find themselves in trouble because they assume that the test will contain easy, common-sense questions. It’s well worth your time to pick up a driver’s manual from your local DMV and study it before taking the test. If you fail the first time, don’t panic; you’ll be able to try again, usually after a short waiting period. If you pass, all that’s left between you and the road is to pay the permit and testing fees required by your state.

Preparing For Your Road Test

Most states will allow you to take a road test for your driver’s license once you reach 16 years of age. Again, this requirement can vary from state to state, so be sure to check the information for your area. If you’re ready to apply, you will need to make an appointment for a road test at your local DMV. During the road test, you’ll be tested on the basics of driving, including starting, stopping, parking, obeying traffic laws, and good decision-making. You may find it useful to read through your driver’s manual again to re-acquaint yourself with the rules of the road and to be ready for any questions the examiner may ask, such as which hand signals to use if your turn lights are malfunctioning.

If you have your driver’s permit, practicing in your car before the test will help immensely, since part of the judging criteria is how confident and comfortable you are in your vehicle. The morning of your exam, you may find it helpful to go for a “test drive” with a parent. This will help you make sure that you know how to execute all maneuvers, and doing a practice run-through of the test can help ease your nerves. At some point before the road test, whether you check before leaving home or just before going into the DMV, you’ll want to make sure that your car is in good condition. Make sure it has enough gas and no cracks in the windshield, and double-check to make sure that you have all of the required paperwork and fee money with you. From there, it’s simply a matter of climbing in the car and doing what you’ve practiced. Good luck!