My daughter is afraid to learn how to drive
Dear Straight Talk: My daughter is 19 and still doesn't drive. She didn't take driver's training in high school, and now she says she is afraid. I'm afraid, too. Outside of college, it inhibits her ability to get a job or even socialize. Could you please give me some perspective? How have others overcome their fear of driving? — Ben, Monterey
Gregg, 21, Los Angeles: I couldn't wait to get my license, but many of my friends put it off. It boiled down to either they or their parents were afraid. It is also easier to rely on others than to be independent. Teach her how to drive and stop giving her rides. Force her to be independent. The longer she waits, the harder it will be.
Peter, 24, Monterey: I put off driving because my mom always gave me rides. When she died, things changed and I had to get my license. The irony is, I now love driving and just finished paying off my first car. I'm not saying it takes something epic to get kids to drive, but there needs to be a push. My friend had a minor crash while learning, and the fear made him stop. He still doesn't have a license, but he's become a mass-transit ninja.
Catherine, 24, Hudson, N.Y.: I have my license, but I hate driving. The death rate from crashes and cars's contribution to global warming makes me avoid it. I ride my bicycle and am passionate about public transportation.
Alex, 15, Newport, Mass.: I'm in no rush, but I have taken the driver's ed class. I have fears about driving; however, overcoming those fears will be meaningful — as will learning a useful skill. On the flip side, I appreciate the world more when I walk. It would be a better place without cars: more peaceful, rural and meaningful.
Colin, 18, Sacramento: You can learn to drive any time. I plan on learning someday, but only because I might start driving when I'm, like, 30. Being a less car-crazy society is good. Many fully functioning urban adults don't own cars. Plus, cars are ridiculously expensive. Keeping a car fed and healthy costs way more than for a person. Public transportation is the way of the future.
Katelyn, 17, Huntington Beach: I've never wanted to drive — and still don't, really. However, my parents encouraged me, and once I got behind the wheel, my fears faded. I'm working toward my license, and my dad is a great teacher — he never freaks out or yells; he encourages rather than pushes.
Taylor, 15, Santa Rosa: I cannot wait to get my license. But many people, including my older step-siblings, are waiting. Perhaps your daughter has never really needed to drive. Parents can be such lenient taxi drivers. Maybe if your daughter missed out on opportunities, she would become motivated.
Hannah, 20, Auburn: My family's rule was we couldn't drive until we were 18, when it was cheaper and safer. By then, the thought of driving scared me. My dad taught me with great patience, letting me drive slowly around an empty parking lot. It took months. Let her learn slowly; it worked for me.
Dear Ben: There is great feedback here, but you will need to take the initiative. You want your daughter to be competent in the world and have options. It's as silly not to teach your kid how to drive as it is not to teach them how to swim.
Push kindly but firmly. Make it a fact-of-life requirement. Be sure to enroll her in a full-service course that includes in-class and on-road training. These classes create safer drivers than the do-it-yourself method many use after turning 18. The crash rate for 18-year-olds is way up due to this.
If you think Ben is afraid, automakers are needing anti-anxiety meds. In California, the number of 16-year-olds getting their license plummeted from 27 percent in 1986 to only 14 percent in 2007. The amount of 20- to 24-year-olds getting a driver's license has also dropped.
You might guess that fewer cars are being bought, and you are correct. According to CNW research, adults 21-34 years old are buying only 27 percent of new vehicles sold in America, a dramatic scaling back from the peak of 38 percent in 1985.
The craze of adolescence is no longer about owning a car, it's about owning the newest iPhone. A preference for gadgets, concern for the environment, serious economic hardship and a hovered-over generation that made putting a 16-year-old behind the wheel unthinkable to many parents are bringing us a less car-crazy world. For that, I'm thankful.
Nonetheless, whether you own a car or not, knowing how to drive is an important skill that, down the road, could save a life, a marriage, a job. It is important to note that crash rates have dropped for 16-year-olds and have risen for 18-year-olds due to the amount of do-it-yourself training that anyone over 18 is allowed to use.
If Detroit were smart, it would help fund driver's training for anyone age 16-25. One reason so many wait to get licensed, and then maybe give up on it entirely (or get on the road with inadequate training), is the high cost of such training. — Lauren
Lauren Forcella co-writes Straight Talk TNT with a panel of 85 teens and young adults. To ask a question or become a panelist, click StraightTalkTNT.com or write to P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628.