Most adults remember, at age fourteen, waiting with bated breath at the doorway of the driver’s license office, imagining what it will feel like to walk back out to the parking lot with a learner’s permit, restricted license, or the holy grail of a full driver’s license. My first time I showed up without my birth certificate and thought my life had ended. On my next attempt I got there at 4:40pm, knowing the small office in Western Kansas closed at 5pm. When I arrived, the examiner had already packed up his kit and was headed out the door. I began wondering if God was out to get me. I would soon be fourteen years and two weeks old and I would not yet have a learners permit.
Things have changed. At least for some teens.
Today, the share of high school seniors across the country who hold a driver’s license dropped from 85% in 1996 to a record low of just 72% in recent years. Increasingly, I’m called upon by puzzled parents to help motivate kids to learn to get behind the wheel. In this segment of my Fox 4 Therapy Thursday we discuss how the internet and ride sharing have changed the dynamic of motivation for teen drivers. This came at a time when states increased the requirements for getting a license, leaving kids less excited than we were to take the plunge. Many just think there’s more adventure to be had at home than out in the real world.
We also discuss how some teens are more reluctant than others, particularly those who lean to the anxious or ADHD side of things and why learning to drive is still vital for most kids in terms of moving forward to adult living, career planning, and school. Finally, I offer strategies parents can use to encourage driving, including starting earlier, starting later, and exposing kids slowly through systematic desensitization, and why which road you choose for early driving can matter.