Back in the day when you were six months away from 16, you were allowed to enroll in driver's ed classes, and as soon as you WERE sixteen, you could take your test - that very day if you were so inclined - and become a fully licensed driver, taking your friends out for a celebratory dinner.


That doesn't seem to be how it works now. And all my friends with teens in the house are taking a crash course in how things work now - from the permit to the beginner license to the full license, including who can be in the car with you and what you need to do. And of course, things do vary by state, so since my friends are spread wide, I'm learning how the learner's permit works in several areas.


  1.   Do your research. Find out what your driver has to do to get their permit. In most cases, they can take a written test and get a permit the day they turn sixteen, if not before. Then they'll have to log a certain number of hours, and in most cases, take their test a few months later to obtain a "restricted" license.

      2.   Get your learner covered under your insurance policy. They don't need any sort of special policy, and it's usually pretty easy to add a learning driver to your own policy. However, talk to your insurance provider about exactly who and what is covered, and make sure anyone getting in the car with your teen understands that. Make sure to ask about "good student" discounts - insuring a new teen driver isn't cheap!

      3.    Prepare to have a learning driver in the car. Make sure YOU know all the rules of the road (helping your student study is a great way!) and make sure you follow them. Minimize distractions for everyone - the student and the teacher. Put phones away, turn the music down (or off!), and make sure all seat and mirror adjustments happen BEFORE the car starts moving.

      4.   Make sure they understand the ins and outs of every car they get in. It's a great idea to get them comfortable in the car they'll be driving most often, but it's also good to let them know that some things may move from car to car. If they're learning to drive in driver's ed, that car will probably be slightly different. BEFORE they pull out, make sure they know where the blinkers, wipers, headlights, and warning lights are in the car they're operating at that moment.

        5.   Make sure the car they'll be learning on is in good shape - all headlights functioning, all tires and brakes in good working condition.