This is the first installment in a series. Check back as I come to terms with my daughter as a new driver. And I as navigate different issues ranging from choosing a car for a new driver; getting her insured; considering a "driver's contract"; keeping tabs on her behind the wheel; and more.
Sophia turns 16 in about eight weeks. She is learning to drive. It is exciting...and nerve-wracking. But I have resolved to (try to) focus on the joy and freedom to adventure that come with being a new driver. I still remember jumping up and volunteering to run to the store for the smallest errand. Those few minutes in the car running to Safeway may as well have been a road trip through the South Dakota Badlands for me. At 16 with my newly minted license, there was independence and autonomy all wrapped up in picking up a gallon of milk.
I am a little befuddled by the apathy to driving that some kids express. They just don't have an interest in driving. I am full of theories on this phenomenon. But I don't get it. When my 15th birthday approached, I started counting down the days like prisoner awaiting release. The minute I was eligible for my permit, I begged my parents to take me. With Sophia, it was a bit of middle ground -- she was interested, and she got her permit precisely the day she turned 15 and a half. But we were also pretty persuasive in getting her to think about the benefits of driving! Keep in mind, in Arizona you have to have your permit for 6 months before you can get your license. So if you wait to get a permit, you cannot get your license when you turn 16. Procrastinating to get the permit might cause frustration down the line.
You can find all you need about getting an Arizona Driver's Permit here. One trick we learned -- there are authorized third party vendors where you can get a permit or driver's license, as well as register a vehicle. These businesses are convenient, especially if you have to take care of this work on Saturday, when the DMV offices are closed, or if you do not have time to wait. There is a reasonable fee -- $20 or so for a permit.
In Arizona a new driver does not have to take drivers ed before getting a license. All that is required is that you pass the test and certify that you have had 30 hours of supervised driving -- with at least 10 hours at night. That said, there are significant benefits to professional driving instruction. First, kids are - of course - apt to listen to any number of strangers before taking their parents' advice. This solves that problem. Second, it removes a common tension point in the parent/child relationship. And third, perhaps best of all for all, it can reduce your auto insurance premiums.
One intriguing driving course is the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Foundation's Safe Teen Accident Reduction Training (START) program. START is a free, hands-on program for licensed drivers ages 16-19. This five hour class provides hands-on, behind the wheel training on a closed driving course. Professional driving instructors with the Tucson Police Department run things, with cars provided by Jim Click Automotive. From their website:
"The S.T.A.R.T. program provides teen drivers with critical information on decision-making, judgement and basic motor vehicle driving skills related to commonly encountered collision factors. The behind-the-wheel portion consists of six exercises: Evasive Steering, Controlled Braking, Basic Skid Control, Off-Road/Pavement Recovery, Anti-lock Brake System Familiarization and a state-of-the-art Distracted Driving Simulator."
If I can get Sophia a spot, she will definitely do this. The classes do fill up quickly, though.
In my next blog, I will talk about the process we are going through to find a car for her. I'm just starting to look at NHTSA and IIHS tests and websites! Stay tuned...