Teen Drivers

Watch out Cupertino—my son has his license.

Thinking back, I remember that I couldn’t wait to drive and I think I may have even taken my driver’s test ON my 16th birthday. I was surprised when my son seemed in no hurry to get his license.

“You can’t drive your friends to lunch until you’ve been driving for a year, and you can’t stay out past 11 p.m.—so what’s the use?”

This rationale was compounded by the stories of how many of his peers had trouble passing either the written or the behind the wheel test on their first (or second, or third) try.

I counted my blessings that he felt this way, and then cursed my father for giving my son a subscription to Car and Driver for his 16t birthday, along with the promise of his old economy car when he got his license.

Fast forward a year, and my son finally has his license (didn’t pass the written test on the first try, but redeemed himself during the behind the wheel test). I nag frequently, “Remember, the Cupertino parent network is thick and I have eyes all over town, so don’t you dare try to get away with driving your friends around”.

So here’s some advice/info I wanted to share:

Allow time after the behind-the-wheel test and have your new driver participate in the DMV Safe Driver study. My son was offered $30 to take about 15 minutes of computer-based training at the DMV. I was allowed to watch and thought it would have been worth it for me to pay $30 for him to take the class.

It gave good explanations and computer-based practice for situations that take experience to get good at (and what teen drivers are worst at): Scanning for hazards and responding appropriately.

The dreaded call to my insurance agent ended up to be better than I expected. Your results may vary, but this is what my provider offered:

  • A 15 percent discount in his premium when we send in the certificate of completion for the teenSMART® ADEPT Driver computer class. We’re now half way through the class and it’s along the lines of the computer-based training that he took at the DMV, but also includes parent participation and behind the wheel assignments. It’s helped ME give better feedback and explanations when I critique his driving. I think the course will make him a better driver.
  • I was pleasantly surprised that my son earned a good student discount. Don’t forget to ask if your provider offers this and to check if your child qualifies. Another reason for kids to get good grades!
  • When I explored how much “accepting Grandpa’s gift of a car” was going to cost us—Wow, it actually brought our total premium down (thanks, Dad!) While my husband and I drive cars that aren’t particularly fancy and typical for parents in Cupertino, by making my son the primary driver on the economy car and foregoing collision coverage (since it is worth less than $4000), our insurance premium came down from what it would have been to just add him to our policy. The counter argument for any teen readers that might try to leverage this anecdote into getting a car—recall that the car was a gift from Grandpa, so I’m not including the expense of buying a car in my cost comparison.

I was dreading this right-of-passage pocketbook-wise, but it ended up being less unpleasant than I’d anticipated. I’m also looking forward to losing my side-job as a chauffeur (and hey, maybe he can start chauffeuring his little sister around.)

Lastly, if you see my son driving around within the next year with any kids (other than his sister)—please be sure to let me know!


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