Driving without a Driver’s License

There’s no doubt about it – a driver’s license is one of the biggest status symbols a teen can hold. Not only is she able to get around on her own without parents tagging along, she has taken one more step toward adulthood. Unfortunately, some teens just can’t wait and take risks by driving prior to obtaining a license.

Today’s graduated driving laws are designed so that teens will gain both the skills and the experience necessary to drive safely. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), teen drivers represent only 7 percent of the entire driving population, yet they’re involved in about 14 percent of all fatal crashes. Young people between the ages of 16 and 19 are four times more likely to speed, run red lights, make illegal turns, and use alcohol or drugs before driving.

Teens who drive prior to taking the steps necessary to obtain a driver’s license may believe that this behavior is exciting and thrilling. But driving prior to gaining the skills and experience needed to be a safe driver may lead to accidents that involve personal injury or property damage. This can result in legal penalties, including mandatory counseling, community service, probation, and a delayed period of time before a driver’s license may be obtained.

It’s also important to realize that insurance companies are only obligated to honor claims made by sober and licensed drivers. If a teen’s unlicensed driving results in personal injury or property damage, the parent will be responsible for the costs, which in the worst case scenario, may be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What To Do
Getting a learner’s permit is exciting for both parents and children. Not only does it represent a step toward independence for the child, but it also offers a degree of freedom for the adult. But it’s important to talk with your child about the responsibilities that come along with driving privileges.

The first step is to know the licensing laws and road rules for your state. Talk with your child about the reasons for a graduated licensing program and the penalties for driving without a license. Make sure she knows what may happen if she drives prior to applying for and taking her test for licensure. And prepare your consequences before the learner’s permit arrives. Establish rules and repercussions for breaking those rules, and draw up a contract that your child will sign prior to getting behind the wheel of the family car.