Buckle Up! Parenting a Teen Driver

I grew up in Missouri, and I remember my dad giving me the driver’s manual for my 15th birthday. Thank goodness, too, because the day I turned 15.5 years, he took me up to take my written test. Those never bothered me, so I left with my learner’s permit. The scary part came when he got into the passenger’s side of the car in the parking lot and made me drive home! I am pretty sure it took us an hour to go the 20 miles back to our house.

There is a huge difference between knowledge and practical application!

However, he was calm and persistent; every time he had to go somewhere or I needed to be somewhere for the next six months, I was the driver.  I passed my driving test the first time on my 16th birthday. (Except parallel parking . . . I didn’t learn that until I went to college and my best friend showed me how to actually do it. Growing up in the country didn’t make it very necessary, but I’m pretty thankful to know it now!) Being able to drive gave me a freedom I didn’t even realize was missing from my life, and I am pretty sure it gave my parents a similar freedom since I was always away at rehearsals.

Fast forward a few years, and I became a mother. I feel truly confident in my birth-to-age-5 parenting ability, but with the older ages I have less experience. Most days, things flow smoothly in play and daily life.

This year was quite a shock when I realized that my firstborn was going to be of driving age. This is a new stage in our parenting journey, and I am terrified. 

educating parenting teen driver drivers ed

For my sanity and her best learning opportunity, I have turned over this stage to my husband. He is much calmer with her. She says he talks less while they are in the car together and she is driving. I am glad that I rode with her this one time, because she really is quite capable. But my goodness! It is the scariest thing in the world to think of all of the other people out there not truly paying attention!

Driving becomes an unconscious action, which is a positive and natural thing once we master a new skill. But, we really need to be more diligent and focused. I know I go from home to work and don’t even realize the trip passed until I am getting out of my car. How do we teach our youth, and ourselves, to be more aware and ready when we are behind the wheel? I have saved you the trouble of searching and have some links ready for you.

Resources for Educating Your Teen Driver

Iowa Driver’s Manual

A driver’s license is governed by state law, which means that every state has their own way to grant licenses, and the road rules are set per state. For example, since I grew up bordering Kansas, I knew that it was legal to turn right on a red light in Missouri but not in Kansas. Since we in Iowa City are so near to Illinois, it would be wise to know their road laws, too. Here you go.  If you do any other driving in other states, you can easily search “STATE driving laws” to pull up their manual.

Teen Driving Laws

While knowing my child is behind the wheel is terrifying, I am very thankful for the graduated laws that grant her the ability to practice and learn with us before seeing her off on her own. Iowa grants an “instruction permit” to those age 14; an “intermediate license,” which has curfews and a minimum of 12 months duration in addition to the instruction permit rules; and the “full license,” which is granted once you are 17 years of age and meet the intermediate license rules.

Iowa Driving Classes

Here is a list of the local places that provide driving classes. Whether you have a new teen driver or you yourself would like a refresher, take a look at some possibilities.  

Iowa Defensive Driving
Traffic/Driving Schools
Iowa Traffic School Online

I believe we could all stand to be safer and better drivers. Educate yourself and your child, for the sake of everyone out on the road. Knowledge is power! 



Dawn lives life to play! Wife to Bryan and mother of four (ages 17, 14, 12, and 8,) she finds what she most enjoys and does it. Bryan tells people she hates a blank calendar; Dawn says she loves a colorful one. With a BA in Theatre and a certificate in Performing Arts Entrepreneurship from the University of Iowa, Dawn has successfully run two business and volunteered on numerous community theatre Boards of Directors. She currently colors in her calendar with Youngevity confidence consultation appointments, Chamber Singers of Iowa City board meetings, strength training and kickboxing at NLXF-NL, managing the office at BerganKDV, and setting as many dates with friends as she can. Dawn is passionate about respect and intentional choices. She loves coffee with cream, a good wheat beer, seeing someone discover something for the first time, and listening to audio books while driving.


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