The memory of our oldest son getting his first driver’s license is still vivid in my mind. He came out of the license bureau waving his license with a big smile on his face. “Scoot over, Mom!” he said. I reluctantly moved over from the driver’s spot. He had aged one year. I felt as though I had aged ten years!

I tensely sat and watched as he started the car and backed up. We finally got on the main street and headed home. I am probably the only mother in the world who yelled “hurry up” to a son who was just learning to drive, but when he came to intersections with cars whizzing both ways, I had visions of being broad-sided on both sides if he didn’t hurry and meld with the flow of the traffic. I suppose that his inching along was to impress me with his cautiousness, but it wasn’t working.

Many parents have experienced similar situations. When a teen gets that first driver’s license, the world changes. Household rules need to be adjusted. Teens need to thoroughly understand the responsibility they have upon receipt of the license, and parents may need to learn to get by with less sleep.

A “sit-down” session with a teen needs to occur before going for the license. It would be good if there were a place to take a teen prior to receipt of the license to see a film such as is shown to folks who are required to go to classes after traffic violations. They need to know about the teenage driving statistics that are available on the Internet. They need to be reminded that the brain development of teenagers is such that they tend to take more risks and be less cautious.

A teen needs to understand that the car keys will immediately be confiscated when certain things happen such as the abuse of the privilege, not adhering to curfew, etc. Most of all, the teen needs to understand that driving is not a right, but it is a privilege for those who are responsible enough to handle such an expensive machine. Each family needs to set rules before the license is obtained.

I seriously question the wisdom of a 16-year-old having a driver’s license. I believe the law should be changed and licenses be given to 16-year-olds in hardship cases only. In addition, I believe that teens under 18 should have to maintain good grades in school. Teens (or anyone else) who has attention deficit disorder should not be given a license to operate a vehicle. Driving a car requires constant attention. Why should a person who can’t pay attention be given a license to drive?

There is no real need for most 16-year-olds to drive. They can carpool or qualify for a hardship license. Many times a student will drop out of school upon receipt of the driver’s license. By raising the age to qualify for a license and requiring acceptable grades in school, we undoubtedly would have less dropouts, students studying harder to learn and best of all, fewer deaths of 16-year-olds.

Since the law currently allows a driver’s license with few qualifications, parents must be all the more vigilant to see that their children drive responsibly. This involves making sure that the teens completely understand the responsibilities involved and that the privilege of driving can be revoked at any time. Further, they need to understand the seriousness of making a mistake that could haunt them for life.