Follow Us

The 40 most influential hours for your teen driver

The 40 most influential hours for your teen driver

I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t thrilled when 40 hours stood between me and my driver’s license.

After completing a semester of driver’s education classes, my teacher told our class that we could now start on our Graduated Driver License (GDL) requirements. My sense of accomplishment turned to dread as my teacher explained how each of us would have to spend 40 hours behind the wheel with a licensed adult. They’d be responsible for making sure we knew how to drive in various kinds of weather, roads and parts of the day. 

After class, I heard many of my friends say they would have their parents sign off and fake their 40 hours. But, I knew my parents wouldn’t be interested in that option. I would be spending 40 hours behind the wheel with my parents. There wouldn’t be a way to get around it.

While I wasn’t thrilled at the hours of driving at the time, today I’m overwhelmingly thankful that my parents held me to every one of my 40 hours.

If your teen is coming home with their GDL papers, here are 3 things you should know:

  1. In the state of Missouri, the Graduated Driver License law requires that all 15-18-year-old drivers complete a two-part process before receiving a full license. First, they must complete a period of driving with a licensed driver while they still have a permit. They then receive a restricted license that has certain rules they’ll have to follow. For example, they won’t be allowed to drive around more than one passenger in their car or be able to drive at certain times at night.
  2. GDL laws, while they can seem annoying to teens, exist to help protect all drivers. Before the mid-1990s, motor vehicle crashes were the number one killer of teens in the United States. Lawmakers saw that driving late at night or with too many passengers played a factor in many fatal accidents involving teens. To curb the large number of accidents, GDL laws were passed.
  3. By practicing safe driving procedures with your teen for the required hours, you can help keep teens safe across the country. According to the Center for Disease Control, a GDL program greatly decreases the risk of deathly car accidents for teenagers. By having set restrictions in place and increasing the amount of supervision they get behind the wheel, parents can help teens be safer on the road. They can then receive a full driver’s license once they turn 18.

I was not excited to spend 40 hours driving with my dad in the passenger seat. But the experience turned out to be one of the most educational parts of getting my license.

Even though I spent a whole semester in class and passed my permit test, driving with an experienced driver gave me a more solid foundation for driving. I learned the mechanics of my car, the way roads worked in my community and got to hear many stories from my dad and learn from his mistakes.

These hours give you great opportunity to connect with your teen and have a captive audience. You two can talk about what’s going on in life, about the future and about their safety.

Discuss some of the expectations you have of them when they do get to drive on their own. Will they have to fill the tank up every time they use a family car? Will they have a curfew? Can they only give rides to family members?

These conversations can also be a great place to talk with your teen about drinking and driving. Listen to their input and let them know how dangerous driving drunk is. Explain that when someone makes that choice, they run the risk of hurting everyone around them, not just themselves. Make sure they know that it is never acceptable to drive after drinking and that they can call you for a ride in any situation.

Taking time to establish these rules lets your teen know the expectations you have of them as a new driver. These boundaries can also help to keep them safe in the long run.

A Graduated Driver License probably isn’t what every teen is hoping for when they turn 16. Between the hours and extra rules, getting to drive may seem like more of a hassle to everyone in the house. But while those 40 hours may not be the most enjoyable part of learning to drive, they might just be the most influential.

Kaitlyn Inman