Eldest Son and Daughter are learning how to drive this summer. The requirements for driving are different now compared to when I was learning to drive. When I was learning, teens could get a permit at age 15, but not be licensed until age 16. We were required to take a driver’s ed class that covered the paper permit test (you know, the one that covers all the rules of the road). Behind-the-Wheel classes were offered, but only kids from upper class families could afford to take them. Once the permit was earned, we drove with a licensed adult until we felt comfortable enough to take and pass the driving test. I got my permit at age 16 and didn’t feel comfortable enough to take the test until I was twenty. I drove thirteen different vehicles before I took my test and then took the test in my boyfriend’s (now husband) 1974 Cadillac Sedan Deville. Driving that car was like drivin a yacht. Imagine parallel parking a yacht. It was the only portion of my test that I really had difficulty with. The person who gave me my test told me that I took too many maneuvers to parallel park. I figured that you maneuvered until you got the thing parked.
Nowadays, kids have to go through a graduated driver’s license process. This has been implemented because too many teens get into serious accidents. Our kids took the driver’s ed class and took and passed the permit test. While it doesn’t say this on the Minnesota Graduated Driver’s License site that I linked to, it was made pretty clear that our kids were also required to take a Behind-the-Wheel class. They’re taking this class now and it’s still expensive, so this could prevent teens living in poverty situations from getting a license. In addition, teens are required to drive for at least 30 hours (10 of which have to be at night) with supervision. Our kids have a log they have to keep for this. After 6 months and their minimum of 30 hours worth of driving, they can apply for a provisional license, which has its own requirements.
I’ve discovered that teaching kids to drive takes nerves of steel. Giving up control of the steering wheel (and gas pedal and brakes) to someone who doesn’t know how to operate a vehicle is scary for this control freak. (Daughter will be reading this, so I have to be careful here. I don’t want to make her feel nervous about driving.) When we first get into the car with one of the kids at the wheel, my shoulders get tense and my stomach knots. I get hyper-observant, which makes me realize how much driving has become automatic for me. After we’ve been in the car for a while and the kids are handling the car fairly smoothly, I start relaxing – not completely, because I’m still looking out for potential hazards for them, but I reach a state of reasonable relaxation. I think they’ve driven about 4 hours or so each and it gets easier every time we go out. Eldest Son and Daughter are conscientious kids when it comes to driving, so I have no worries for the long run.