An Open Letter to My Teens as They Get Their Drivers’ Licenses

Heartfelt words from one mom to her teenagers as they get their drivers licenses. -

To My Teenage Soon-to-be-Drivers,

This is hard for me to write. It’s difficult enough to admit that you’re growing up, but the driver’s license is like the coveted “Get out of Jail Free” card, a proverbial golden ticket to escape and do things without us. You’ll be flying the nest and we all know it. Freedom is on your radar and freedom you shall seek.

Stop shaking your head. You know I’m right.

Maybe you’ll just want to fulfill the requests that we couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do in the years before this.
“We should have ice cream for dinner.”
“Can you drive my friends and me to the movies?”
“Is it okay if I join xyz club/activity/sport after school?”
“Can you drop me off at my friend’s house who lives a 20 minute drive from here because it’s only 20 minutes away and I didn’t do the math to realize a round trip drop off and pickup means I’m asking you to give up a lot of time from your day to make the drive… twice?”  Okay, to be fair, you have never asked it specifically with those words but that’s how I always heard it so you might as well have.

You’re finally old enough to get your license. You’re finally old enough to drive away on your own.
It hurts.
It’s scary.
It WILL be the cause for stress and anxiety whenever we know you’re on the road.

Don’t get me wrong. I trust that you plan to be a safe driver. I believe in your ability to be alert while on the road. I know you recognize there are both written and unwritten rules about driving that you’ll try to grasp and implement.

But I also know you are a teenager.

So I want to put pen to paper (aka fingers to keyboard) and lay out some things for you to consider during this milestone in your life.

  • Driving is a privilege, not a right. The police can take the privilege away if you break the law. We can take the privilege away if you break the rules. Whether you see the rules as fair doesn’t matter. Take it or leave it.
  • When you are behind the wheel, your phone is off limits. Our vehicles have a hands-free option so if we need to call you or you need to call us, use that feature if you need to. Honestly, it’s even better if you pull over and park. So let me rephrase this for emphasis. I’m not just saying your phone is off limits while driving. I am saying it is off limits any time you are behind the wheel. So if you are telling yourself, “Hey, if I’m stopped at the stoplight or stuck in traffic then I’m not driving. I can check social media or text.” Nope. Nada. Rethink it.
  • Green doesn’t always mean go. People run red lights. Not just yellow-turned-red but red-red. So before you hit the gas when the light turns, make sure everyone that is supposed to stop is actually doing it.
  • Don’t let others impact the way you drive. As a teenager, you have enough things to worry about. So if when someone cuts you off, just accept it. Don’t get aggressive, frustrated or annoyed. Keep your cool or you’ll end up driving erratically yourself. Along that same line, you don’t owe anyone a ride. If someone is being disrespectful or distracting to your driving, pull over. Have them call their parents for a ride or call us and we’ll give them a ride.
  • The gas gauge is NOT a suggestion. If you run out of gas, one guess who gets to pay for the tow. It won’t be me.
  • The driver is in charge of the radio. Set it to the station and volume you want before you put the car in gear. Don’t mess with it after that and don’t let others mess with it. If you find it’s a distraction, don’t be afraid to turn it down or turn it off.
  • Safety is more important than punctuality. You know we stress the importance of being punctual to activities, events or any time you’ll be meeting with someone else. Remember that time is a limited resource and their time is as important as yours. But it’s even more important for you to drive safely than it is for you to get somewhere by a certain time. That’s not an excuse to be late. You can use that reason once then you need to rethink your scheduling choices. If you find that you’re consistently late, adjust the time you leave. If weather is an issue, plan accordingly. If you’re late for your curfew, we’ll discuss why. (Which leads me to my next thing…)
  • Curfews are serious business. Whether we expect you to return home at a certain time after school or after hanging out with friends some evening, whatever time we say you need to be home is your curfew. Feel free to complain or negotiate but recognize that such requests may result in us giving you an earlier curfew or perhaps loss of your driving privilege.
  • Parents have seniority. If we say we need the car or even WANT the car, say thank you for all the times we let you drive it. If we ask you to run to the store, pick up dinner or shuttle your sister somewhere then ask for the grocery list, the restaurant order or what time you need to be where for your sister.
  • The blind spot is a real thing. It has nothing to do with you being a new driver. Sometimes you just can’t see that car that is riding alongside you. Don’t be afraid to ask a passenger if it’s clear.
  • Turn signals don’t always mean someone is turning. People change lanes or turn and forget to turn off their signal. Don’t pull out in front of someone unless you know they are really turning.
  • You’re not the only driver on the road. You may be the safest driver in the world, but you cannot control what other people do. Be wary of other drivers because not everyone is responsible. Not everyone is alert. Not everyone follows the rules.

And last but not least

  • Cut your parents some slack. When you get home, if we nag, rant, yell, remind, cry or hug you then just roll with it. You’ve always been the most prized cargo we have transported and now we’re entrusting you to… you. You need to remember that this is one of the most difficult things we’ve done.

I promise you this. We’ll offer free and unsolicited advice about your driving, even when you don’t want it. We’ll regularly remind you of the rules for when you’re on the road, even if you haven’t done anything wrong. We’ll ask you questions about where you’ve been and who was with you, even though you may be with the same people you always are. That’s all part of growing up so when you go to roll your eyes or give us an attitude, please remember it’s because we care.

And because we care, also know that you can call us any time if you don’t feel comfortable driving and we’ll come get you. We love you and we want you to return home safely every time.

Much love,


PS: Dad says to tell you that the back seat is for transporting musical instruments only.

31 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Teens as They Get Their Drivers’ Licenses

  1. These are great tips and are so true! I am so not looking forward to the day when my kids can drive! I need time to slow down!

  2. This was one of the hardest things I ever did, let my oldest drive the car with me in it. It was a mind blowing experience that I remember to this day. It was scary in and of itself and then the reality of him growing up…oh my.

  3. My dad always told us “be careful” as we walked out the door, and “watch for deer” as appropriate. Also we were expected to let them know when we got home, regardless of the hour (yes, wake them up). We told each of our kids, “never trust the other driver”, which is similar to your last bullet.

  4. I’m so not ready for this but I know it’s coming. All we can do is talk to them and try our best to protect them but I’ll still be a nervous wreck!

    1. That’s a great tip. Our daughter has a school license to drive back and forth and it’s very restrictive. No stops to/from school except at the nearest gas station on the route. Nobody except a sibling can ride with. So we didn’t even have to set that rule since the state did it for us! 🙂

    1. Following up… so far, so good! (Knock on wood!) She is cautious on the road and doesn’t use her phone while driving. She actually leaves it in her backpack in the back seat so she isn’t tempted to grab it. She’s had a few shake-ups that really upset her. One was when she missed a turn and needed to pull over to figure out where to go. Another was when a downpour caused poor visibility.

    1. That is so true! When we discuss these things, we ask if they have questions. We encourage conversation. But most important, we emphasize that they need to continuously make good decisions.

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