When should you learn to drive?

As a driving instructor with Young Drivers of Canada for almost 22 years now, I’ve taught thousands of people how to drive. I’ve also logged over one million kms on all of my vehicles, both as a driver and instructor combined. Being in the vehicle feels awesome to me; whether it’s driving or instructing. I have to say, I’m glad a buddy of mine suggested we learn to drive when we were 16 years old. It was obviously the right thing to do. Was it the right thing for you to do?Ever since I was a teenager I had heard about the local government wanting to raise the age of drivers from 16 to 18 years old. That won’t happen across any jurisdiction via the government, but parents could have a hand in deciding if their teen is mature enough to drive a vehicle safely. Driving skill alone will not save someone from a crash; attitude is also a big part of how someone drives. The maturity of a teen isn’t always there and that problem runs well into their twenties. They need a solid reason to want to learn how to handle a vehicle safely.

So, the question we need to ask is: when should you learn to drive? At what age? While I was out doing a driving lesson with a 16 year old student, it became obvious to me that he wasn’t trying to do much of what I was teaching him. We were early in his lessons so I stopped him and asked why he was learning to drive. “Because I’m 16 years old” he replied. He continued to explain that once you turn 16 it’s time to learn to drive and get your license. I must have missed that memo. This wasn’t good enough for me, so we went off to his home and I spoke with his parents. We all agreed to wait until he was mentally ready to drive. I saw him again roughly 6 months later and he did well during his remaining lessons as he now wanted to learn to drive at that time.

I’ve had students that were over 20 years of age when they first learned to drive. They needed to get a license to get a job. This became an important step in their lives, so they took it seriously. They wanted to be the best they could. I’ve also had students who were retired. Their spouse was getting too ill to drive, so they wanted to learn to drive so they could go to the grocery store, church and visit friends or family. The oldest new driver I’ve taught to drive was 72. They all had a reason, and not because they were of age.

The bottom line is this: ensure you or your family member is ready to learn to drive; both mentally and physically. It’s an adult thing to do.

Author’s Bio: Scott Marshall is Director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada (www.yd.com). Recently he has been a judge on the first three seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network. Scott started writing columns on driving for his community paper over 4 years ago. Since then his columns have been printed in several publications including newspaper, magazines and various web-sites. Now he has his own blog at http://safedriving.wordpress.com. You can reach Scott via e-mail with any questions or comments at safedriver36@yahoo.ca.