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Make the Most of the Learner Permit

The learner phase of GDL provides a minimum amount of protected time for a teen to practice driving under the supervision of a parent or other qualified adult. However, it is up to both the adult and the teen to use this time effectively and make the most of the learner permit. The following key principles will help you more effectively supervise practice drives with your teen:

  • Discuss the process. Before the permit phase, talk to your teen about the various stages of licensure and revisit the topic throughout the supervised driving process. Explain that the behind-the-wheel test is not a given and that he or she must demonstrate maturity and skill before permitted to take it. Include your teen in these decisions, and solicit, listen, and acknowledge his or her input. Use these discussions to help develop your teen’s self-evaluation skills.  
  • Personalize it. Learning-to-drive is not a one-size-fits-all process. Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) provisions organize the general licensing process for new drivers to keep them safe while they learn. The permit holding period and practice hour requirements are minimum recommendations. Teenagers are unique, and vary in how much and what kinds of practice they need. 
  • Include practice variety and challenge. It’s not just how much teenagers practice that matters. Variety and challenge are also important. Slowly increasing the variety and challenge of practice drives will help them learn how to drive in a diverse range of situations. This kind of practice will give them a bigger and better “tool box” of skills to use when they drive on their own.
  • Mix it up. Purposeful practice drives that focus on a specific goal (like hazard detection) complemented by more “everyday” drives can provide a good mix of deliberate structured practice and time to get comfortable behind the wheel. Teenagers need both.
  • Stay calm and focused. Stress and anxiety can make it difficult for teens to learn and for parents to supervise. Keep it cool in the car, avoid talking about sensitive non-driving topics, and remember it’s okay to pull over in a safe location to calm down if you need to. To stay on task, make a Practice Driving Plan together before you head out the door.

It's also important to encourage your teen to take an active role in identifying your state’s GDL provisions and sharing this information with you. Ask your teen why now is the time to learn how to drive and what will be most difficult. What your teen shares will tell you a lot about his or her readiness to drive and where you might need to spend extra time. Watch this video to Create the Right Learning Environment.

To learn more, download Developing Driving Experience.

Before the Permit

What if your teen isn't ready to drive? Getting a driver's  license may be the number one goal of many teens but not all. According to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 1 in 3 teens delay getting their license until they turn 18, over a 33% drop since 1993. Don’t assume to know how your teen feels about the matter. Talk about it. Ask if and why she wants a license. You might be surprised. Your teen may not be ready.

Further reading:

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