My Teen Son, Halfway Through the Permit Process

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D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook...

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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

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My son snapped this pic as I was filling the car up. Otherwise, his phone is out of reach.

My son snapped this pic as I was filling the car up. Otherwise, his phone is out of reach.

In our state, new teen drivers go through a graduated drivers licensing (GDL) process that begins with their permit, which they’re required to keep for six months.

From that point, they get a drivers license that holds a number of limitations, such specifying the hours of the day in which they can drive, how many passengers can be in the car, and completely limits them from any cell phone usage when they’re behind the wheel, even for hands free voice calls.

My 16-year-old is a bit more than halfway through his permit process. Parents are required to ensure their child has 60 hours of driving practice, including 10 hours at night. We’ve blown through those 60 hours, and I’d like him to have 200 or more under his belt before he takes his driving test.

He’s driven on a variety of roads, from small town streets to the Interstates in both Louisville, Kentucky and Indianapolis, Indiana. And he’s come a long way in a very short period of time.

When he first started driving, he made a ton of errors, and every single drive was a cause for concern. He’s managed to correct most of his mistakes, but there are still three errors I hope to correct before he drives without myself or his mother in the car. They include:

  • Accelerates too rapidly and brakes too hard. And he often exceeds the speed limit, assuming that the limits are higher than they are.
  • Follows other cars too closely. This also contributes to his excessive braking in situations where another car slows or turns.
  • Failure to use his turn signals in a timely manner, if he uses them at all.

He’s also seriously interested in pursuing his motorcycle endorsement as well. And these three issues can be just as big of problems on a motorcycle as they are on cars – especially the turn signals. Motorcycles already face limited visibility due to their small size and the inattention of motorists – failure to see a rider is often cited as the cause of collisions between motorcycles and automobiles.

We’ve still got a couple of months to get these errors corrected before he can drive on his own. So I’m sure we’ll log another set of double or triple digit worth of hours with him behind the wheel before then, and hopefully, making his errors a thing of the past before then.

How about your experiences – have you ever taught a child how to drive? What was the most frustrating thing about the whole proces for you?

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