Personal Health

Driving Safety: Frequently Asked Questions

All my friends are excited about learning to drive, but I don’t have any interest at all! Is there something wrong with me?

No! Don’t learn to drive until you want or need to. Many people who live in cities or other places with public transportation don’t feel the need to drive. Others choose not to drive for environmental or financial reasons. Either way, the choice is up to you.

I really want to learn to drive! I am taking a driver’s education class and doing well in the classroom part, but when I get behind the wheel I get really nervous. Will I ever stop being so nervous?

Yes! Like many things in life, learning and skill go hand-in-hand. You will become more confident with experience. Practice, practice, practice. You may find that some people are easier to drive with than others, such as one parent or sibling instead of another. Try to arrange as much behind-the-wheel time with them as possible.

My parents are super-strict about letting me borrow their car, even though I’ve never gotten into an accident. How can I get them to trust me more (and use their car more often)?

Many parents are very cautious about letting their newly licensed children use the family car. Talk with your parents about their concerns. Find out what worries them and address their concerns as specifically as possible. The more you are able to show them that you can follow through while being trustworthy, the easier it will be for all of you.

You can:

  • Offer to drive your parents somewhere so they can see for themselves that you are a safe driver.
  • Pay for the gas you use and/or a portion of their car insurance (which is higher now that you are on the policy).
  • Figure out a way to keep in touch when you have the car, such as calling/texting them when you arrive at a destination, and again right before you are ready to drive home.
  • Never violate your curfew.
  • Know your state’s laws about driving and let your parent(s)/guardian know that you are aware of the laws and consequences for violating them.

Is it okay for me to drive my friends around?

Check out your state laws. Many states don’t allow you to drive other teens or kids (except your family members) for at least 6 or 12 months after you get your license. Even if your state allows it, it is best to wait a full 6 months because talking to your friends can take your attention away from the road (especially if they’re making a lot of noise). Teens with attention difficulties such as ADD and ADHD should make special efforts to avoid distractions. Having an adult passenger in the car can lessen your chance of getting into a car crash.

I’m finally ‘legal’ to drive my friends around. Sometimes they act loud and crazy in the car and it is distracting. How can I tell them to act calmer in my car?

Congratulations for making it to this driving milestone! It does come with responsibility though, and you have every right as the driver to be in charge of what happens when you are driving with other people in your car. Don’t be shy about asking anyone in the car to settle down, turn down the music, or behave appropriately when you are driving. If you feel things are getting out-of-hand and you are becoming distracted, pull over in a safe area and talk with them. Explain to your friends that you simply can’t drive like this and that you won’t continue until they all promise to settle down. In the future, carefully consider whom you allow in your car.

Is it OK to ask my friends to chip in for gas?

Your friends should offer first (especially if you will be traveling a long distance), but if they don’t, its fine to ask them to chip in for gas. It usually works out best if you talk with your friend(s) about it before you leave for your destination. That way they can plan on helping you with the cost of gas.

I’ve had my license for about a year and got into a little ‘fender-bender’ when I was trying to park. My parents haven’t noticed the scrape on the car yet. I don’t want them to get angry and tell me I can’t use the car. What should I do?

It’s always important to let an adult know about ANY damage that is done to the car, even when it seems very minor. Everyone needs to know that the car is safe to drive. It’s best to be honest and tell your parent(s)/guardian(s) as soon as possible and explain to them what happened and that you were not hurt. Show them the damage and offer to help pay for the repair. This will show them that you take responsibility for your actions, understand the consequences, and are behaving maturely as if it were your own car.

I had an accident a few weeks ago and I still feel anxious every time I get in the car. Is this normal?

It’s normal to feel upset after an accident, particularly if you are a new driver. Car accidents are called “accidents” for a reason! You may want to drive with a trusted adult the next few times you drive after the accident until you gain more confidence. If you continue to be anxious about getting in a car comfortably, make an appointment with your health care provider.

What should I do if I get pulled over by a police officer?

Most likely the police will not pull you over unless there is a real reason. If you see police lights behind you or you see an officer making a gesture to pull you over, do it as soon as it is safely possible. Stay in the car; the police officer will come to you. Put down the window and wait until the officer asks you for your license and registration. You may want to let the officer know that you need to get the registration out of the glove compartment. Be polite and honest when the officer asks you questions. You may get a ticket or you may get a warning. Don’t argue about anything being “unfair.” Everyone has the legal right to appeal a ticket.

For more information:

CDC Teen Driver Fact Sheet

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