Is your teen ready to start learning how to drive? I put together a list of steps after recently teaching my son. Follow these to stay as stress-free as possible (given the terrifying situation you’re about to be in):
Step 1: Obtain the Ohio Motor Vehicle Laws published by the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Have your child read and study it. You can find a digital copy here.
Step 2: Clear your Saturday and go to one of the driver’s license exam stations near you where your teen can take the exam to get their temporary permit to drive. Plan to be there a while.
Step 3: After passing the test, get in line at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) to have your kid’s temporary license made. TIP: You don’t have to do it at the same location as the test. We went to our neighborhood BMV instead which had a much shorter line.
Step 4: Stop on the way home from the BMV, get out, and let your kid have the driver’s seat. Scream “STOP” at your teen’s near miss with a tree because he does not know that after you turn the wheel, you must turn it BACK. Make your teen get out of the driver’s seat and drive home yourself.
Step 5: Make yourself a drink and decide your spouse will be responsible for teaching your kid to drive.
Step 6: Give your teen their first lesson on locating the essential equipment in the car —ignition, gear shift, wipers, lights, etc. Have your child put the car in reverse and attempt to leave the driveway. Switch seats with your child, and back the car out of the driveway yourself. Switch seats again and have teen drive around the block. Plan to return home one hour later because your teen drove around the block at 5 MPH. Even so, it was terrifying.
Step 7: Drive your child to a good practice spot. Have your child practice driving at their own pace. In other words, 5-7 MPH. Give positive feedback along with instructions on how to stay in their own lane, how to determine where their lane is, how to signal a turn, how to turn the wheel hand-over-hand, how to return the wheel to straight, where to stop in relation to a stop sign, and how to scan the road to identify potential obstacles. THIS IS IMPORTANT: Switch seats with your child before leaving the park and drive them home. The park is NOT the ROAD. The road has eleventy billion cars all going 300 miles per hour. At least it feels that way to a teen who just spent an hour puttering around the cemetery at 7 MPH.
Steps 7-12: Repeat Step 7. Repeat it again. Repeat it again. Repeat…
Step 13: Find a driver’s education course for your teen. Check online reviews and ask friends for recommendations. Do not procrastinate on this step. It can take several weeks for an opening. In Ohio, 24 hours of class time can be done in person or online; consider how your child learns best. Either way, they will need to drive at least eight hours in-car with an instructor, so get that scheduled sooner rather than later.
Step 14: Ask your student driver what they learned at each driver’s ed class. Slowly come to the realization that 90% of teaching your teen to drive will be entirely your responsibility despite the $500 you just spent on driver’s ed.
Step 15: Practice driving with your teen. Ohio requires your kid to have 50 hours of drive time before getting their license, including 10 hours after dark. Fifty hours may sound like a lot, but with a freshly-minted teen driver, I can assure you that 50 hours is not enough. Not nearly. How many hours do you think your teen spent learning to play soccer or the trombone or Fortnight? A lot more than 50 hours, that’s for sure.
Driving is a dangerous and complicated life skill. While they can miss some of the shots they take in a game, some of the notes they play in band, or whatever it is they do on video games, they need to be darn-near perfect at driving. You can’t just skip a few stop signs. You can’t check your blind spot most of the time. Their life and the lives of others are in their hands when they drive, so practice, practice, practice.
(Ahem, rant and tangent over. Back to learning how to drive.)
Step 16-35: Repeat Step 15. Try to stay calm and not yell. (Please understand that I’m not a yeller normally, but good gracious, is it stressful to sit in the passenger seat while a new driver learns.) Offer as much encouragement as you can muster. Start easy and work up. One of the most challenging parts of teaching my teen was the amount of traffic in Cincinnati. There are cars everywhere, even in our quiet neighborhood. So start small and work your way up.
Step 36: Continue repeating step 15, but when your spouse texts you to see what time you will be home, take your eyes off the road and text back. Realize that your kid is driving, and you taught them how. Give yourself a little pat on the back.
Step 37: Before taking the road test for his license, practice the maneuverability part of the test. Realize that this could take a while. Borrow cones from a generous friend or the construction sight down the street (ok, not really). We measured out the maneuverability course in a parking lot near our house and marked it with sidewalk chalk so we didn’t have to measure each time. Then, he practiced every day for a week. Finally, he felt ready.
Step 38: Schedule the test. Don’t be like me and wait too long, when the next open spot on a Saturday is six weeks away. Be smart. Go online about a month before you think you need to and schedule a convenient time. You can do it here. If you must, your kid can take the test as a walk-in. Get there WHEN IT OPENS on a Saturday. By 9:00 AM, the wait was nearly 3 hours. It was a long day, but HE PASSED!
Step 39: If you did not do it before your kid took the test, gather the forms they will need to get their actual driver’s license. There is an extensive list of acceptable documents on the BMV website. In addition, your teen will need a notarized affidavit that says a parent supervised 50 hours of practice. You can print that form here as well.
Step 40: Make yourself one more drink and call your insurance agent. The numbers aren’t going to be pretty but add your new driver to your insurance plan. Be sure to ask about any discounts he might qualify for, including good grades, a defensive driving class, or an app that monitors driving.
Step 41: If you haven’t yet, find extra practice for your teen. At least one driving school in the area offers a supplemental seminar to their students. There is also a program called B.R.A.K.E.S., which teaches teens safety and hazardous driving techniques. My teen just completed this free program, and I highly recommend it.
Step 42: Take a deep breath and send your kid out onto the road alone. Be grateful and proud that your teen is one step closer to being a responsible adult and that you helped them get there.
Safe driving to all, and to all a good night.