What Do You Buy a Teen Who Doesn't Want to Drive?

16 year old Amanda is a star student who is helping her mom run a Husky rescue. The only problem is she's petrified of driving. 

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Susan writes:

Hi Steve. Thanks for all the hard work you have done with your web site. We have a 16-year-old who loves animals. She's probably going to become a vet and we wanted to get her a larger van like the one we now use to run our husky rescue. 

The only problem is she's scared to get behind the wheel. The last time we tried to get her to drive she had a near nervous breakdown. A couple years back she had crashed a go-kart and bloodied her nose. Now she just flat out refuses to drive anything no matter what.

Should we try to give her time? Maybe start looking for a safe small car that will be easy for her to drive? We love her to death. But honestly we also want her to get out of the house and have her own life. Amanda's an amazing kid, but she needs to get a little guidance.

Anything you would suggest?

Steve writes:

She doesn't need to drive. Not yet. 

In fact, with the cost of car insurance these days you should consider it a huge blessing that she doesn't want to get behind the wheel. Especially in something as large as a full-size van. Giving her the keys to that would be like offering her a large boat at a small lake filled with sailboats and kayaks. 

I would try to talk her into a state of confidence. When you're on the road, explain to her some of the basic skills and situations she will eventually experience as a driver. This doesn't have to be a constant conversation and I would encourage you to focus on non-problem situations first. 

How should the mirrors be positioned before you go on the road? What's the best way to use your brakes as you come to the light? What's the right way to turn a steering wheel?  I would also make her the problem seeker of sorts. If she sees someone driving erratically, or doing something stupid, like not using turn signals, let her be the one to point it out for you and give her a simple "Thank you". 

By having her be more of her own environment, and by showing her the right way to drive, you'll build up her confidence. In due time she'll be a great driver and a more careful one than most. So be patient and have her gradually become a more aware and proactive passenger. 

That will eventually solve a lot of problems related to the open road.