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As your adolescent approaches driving age, it’s time to start thinking about the process of teaching them to drive and getting them a driver’s license. Here is some general information and common questions on the topic:

Should I postpone the age at which my teen gets their license?

Our position on this is no. Many advocates have suggested that we raise the legal driving age to 17 or even 18, as statistics show the incident of crashes goes down with age, with 16-year-olds being the highest danger group. This can be misleading, however. It isn’t necessarily the age of the driver that is a factor, but their experience. A first-year driver is going to be less competent than a second or third year driver, and so on, regardless of the age they start at. The real issue at work behind such statistics is the learning curve, not necessarily age. As stated by Dale Wisely, Ph.D., a psychologist who operates the nonprofit site Parenting Teen Drivers: “all new drivers, even if they are 40, are more likely to crash than younger ones.” (Mahoney, 2009)

Sooner or later, your child is going to have to set out on their own behind the wheel, and the first year is always going to be more dangerous than the years that follow. It’s not necessarily wise to postpone this, so that they’re learning to drive at the same time that they’re heading off to college. A better way to address safety concerns is to put in extra work and training, not increase the age at which they get their license. Research shows that frequent driving trains the brain to learn to focus on the right things. (Gold, 2013) So the more experience a driver gets behind the wheel, the sharper their driving skills will become, regardless of age.

Who do I contact for teen driving permits and licenses?

All teen driving permits and licenses are issued through the department of motor vehicles. Find the closest walk in center near where you live.

When can a teen get their driving permit?

In most states, teens can apply for a permit 6 months before their 16th birthday. However, at last check, teens in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, and North and South Dakota can be as young as 14, whereas several states, such as New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island require teens to be 16.

How to get a teen driving permit

Getting a permit will require a basic eye exam and filling out some forms. Teens will need their legal guardian with them. Usually no appointment is required for this; simply go to your local DMV and ask for the application for a teen driving permit. There will be a fee for this process, which varies by jurisdiction.

The process of getting a license for your teen

Once your child has logged the necessary permit hours and feels comfortable behind the wheel, you will need to call and make an appointment for a driving test to get their license. (See our information on GDLs in the next section for any additional requirements.) They will need to pass a written test as well as a quick driving test with a DMV instructor, which usually lasts anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. The entire process will take around an hour or two, perhaps longer depending on wait times. There is also a fee for this process, regardless of whether or not your child passes the test.

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