Is Your Teenage Child Ready To Drive?

June 12th, 2012

In Pennsylvania, it is required that a teenage applicant for a non-commercial learner’s permit must receive medical certification that she does not have a condition that seriously impairs her ability to drive. Even if your child is the right age and free of any conditions that significantly impair driving ability, leading healthcare centers, such as the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, suggest that parents, in coordination with pediatricians, make sure that there 16 year old child is truly ready to take on the complex and inherently dangerous task of driving a vehicle on the open road among other drivers and pedestrians. Indeed, beyond the physical ability to drive a vehicle, there is also the behavioral and cognitive readiness to do so. The following are some questions that should be asked in determining the driving readiness of teenagers:

 • Do you feel your teen consistently demonstrates good judgment and maturity at school, around peers, and at home?

• Does your child readily and responsibly accept criticism and responsibility?

• Does your teen demonstrate knowledge of the rules of the road and other proficiencies based on lessons learned and driver education classes? If not, is your child not ready to drive or in need of further specialized instruction?

• Is your child agreeable to practicing driving as a skilled adult prior to driving independently (for at least 65 hours required in Pennsylvania as of December 27, 2011); Is there an adult that is willing and/or able to serve in this role?

• Does your child suffer from any medical or physical issues (for example, untreated seizures, significant uncorrected visual impairment, uncontrolled diabetes, history of concussions) that may prevent her from driving safely?

• Does your child suffer from any behavioral or neuropsychiatric issues(for example, drug dependence, depression, ADHD, intellectual disability) that may prevent her from driving safely?

• Does your child require medical support that would otherwise support safe driving behaviors, such as medication for the treatment of ADHD?

It is important that these inquiries are considered to anticipate and/or identify behaviors that may not augur well for safe driving. For example, teens with ADHD tend to be more impulsive, have impaired reactions at times, and have frustration with planning and strategizing, particularly when complex tasks are involved. Further, teens falling within the Autism Spectrum with an Autism Spectrum Disorder can also have difficulty recognizing the cues of other drivers on the road, which can also increase driving difficulty.

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