Would You Help Your Kids Cheat to Get a Driver’s License?

A reader named Ari writes from Israel:

Recently the Israel Government voted to change the minimum age for getting a driver’s license. Here is a snippet from an article in Ha’aretz (headlined “Israel to Lower Driving Age, but Tack on Period of Mandatory Supervision”):
The earliest age to start driving lessons will remain 16 and a half. The period of driving accompanied by an adult will have to cover at least 50 hours, 20 of them on urban streets, 15 hours on inter-urban roads and 15 hours of driving at night. The novice driver will have to have an adult chaperone at all hours of the day during the first three months but only at night during the second three months. After the novice driver and the accompanying person sign a declaration that the accompanied driving requirement has been fulfilled properly, the new driver will be given a young driver’s license.
I’m curious as to how the honor system is going to work here. If my child’s license were to depend on my declaration, what are the chances that I would fudge? How would the governing agency know? It seems to be unverifiable. I assume that there will be some internet-based form with a checkbox and maybe some number to fill in (number of hours driven night / day / rain / …) I believe that forcing a person to write his own declaration would make it more difficult for him to lie.

I wrote back to Ari:

Of course it may be that no one has a stronger incentive to make sure a kid gets all his training than the parent of said kid!

 To which he replied:

As a father of eight kids, I’m more interested in the kid getting his license, and this is not because I have kids to spare, but because lessons costs a huge amount of money here. Between you me and the big blue sea, I think I’d fudge.

What would you do (assuming, perhaps, that you have fewer kids than Ari)? Also: if you are a parent of a novice driver, would you be more or less nervous if the vehicle your kid is learning to drive can also operate autonomously?

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  1. Jordan says:

    This was 10 years ago, but I live in a US state where the youth requirements to obtaining a license requires so many hours (I think it was 30) of accompanied driving. I’d be surprised if more than half the class actually did anything even close to the time.

    In the six months between permit and driver’s test, as I remember the family’s driving habits then, it was essentially impossible for us to do enough for me to be behind the wheel for that many hours. And yet, I had my driver’s test six months after getting my permit.

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  2. Jack says:

    With this and the podcast on the Kaczynski brothers there is a mini theme emerging about family loyalty vs loyalty to the law and your neighbours. It would be interesting to see if Dubner could use his Freakonomics to tell us exactly how much thicker blood is than water.

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  3. Rob Carlson says:

    In Maryland the accompanying adult must sign on penalty of the loss of their own license that the practice hours listed are true and accurate. Also it requires the weather conditions for each practice session listed, so there’s at least some data that could be validated.

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  4. Matt says:

    The requirement is similar in PA (50 hours with a chaperone in the front seat, parent signs a form verifying). My mom sent me to my test after less than six hours driving because she hated doing it, while my girlfriend’s parents made her do over a hundred fifty before they let her take the test. This “requirement” seems similar to the “suggested donation” at a museum in terms of how much weight it carries and how many people will follow it.

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  5. Sharon says:

    Wow. Well, I live in Israel, too, and I can tell you that I would NOT fudge no matter how much money it costs (and it is expensive). In fact I probably would make them drive extra hours with me if I weren’t sure they were ready.

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  6. Seminymous Coward says:

    Driver’s licenses in my state require a number of practice hours under a learner’s permit with a licensed driver over a set age in the car. There’s no attempt at verification beyond the word and possibly signature of the parent. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

    Every instance I have any reason to know about involved the learner actually getting the experience, frequently several times over. The learner always wants to practice, and I’ve never spoken on this subject with a parent that didn’t prefer to supervise as much of the early driving as possible.

    There’s a separate requirement for professional instruction before granting the learner’s permit. That’s fairly expensive, but it requires documentation from a company registered to do it with the state; therefore, I don’t think it’s easy to avoid without waiting for the direct-to-license age. Even if Israel lets the parent do that part personally, I can’t imagine a parent irresponsible enough to skip it entirely. What’s the alternative, pointing out a few controls and wishing the kid good luck?

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  7. anonymous says:

    Back in the 70’s when gas was cheap, I spent countless hours with parents, relatives, and friends driving around the back roads to get in my time. Years went by before I got my license, though. I was swell at driving in straight lines on the turnpike and down country roads, it was the parallel parking, merging, and city driving that tripped me up. For that I had to take a few driving lessons, also cheap at the time.

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  8. JimFive says:

    I’m not sure how the cost of lessons figures in here. Presumably you pay for and take the lessons first and then the accompanied driving log starts. Beyond that, a log sheet would go a long way toward encouraging compliance and catching cheaters. But, really, after the lessons the parent and child’s interest in being a “good enough” driver is more compelling that the state’s interest in having “good enough” drivers.

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  9. ari says:

    We have a similar system here in Australia. Driving lessons still cost a lot, but for my family, the 25 hours supervised driving (it’s now been increased to 50), was just too much of a nuisance.

    The licensing department had some great stories about people that had ‘driven’ to Adelaide and back, essentially a three day trip, in the three days since they passed their practical, in order to circumvent the hours requirement. All was needed was the parent’s signature, and you were away.

    To answer the question, once it got to a certain point where they felt my driving was ‘adequate’, my parents didn’t care what they signed. They hated having to supervise me as much as I had having to do it.

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    • Ryan H says:

      Ah yes, better to risk your child’s life on ‘adequate’ than to inconvenience yourself as a parent (didn’t you sign up for that job?).

      I wonder if driving authorities started fining people significantly for failing to pass tests would help improve drivers. Also requiring periodic retesting would be wise. I’ve been driving for 20+ years and except for a few lame written tests (& eye tests) haven’t had to take a driving class or test since I was a teenager taking a brief summer class. I’m a decent driver but easily distracted (particularly on vacation). I do however use my turn signals etc. far more than the masses appear to.

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  10. Rick says:

    My state has a parent taught driving program. First there is classroom instruction given by the parent. The state offers several sample curricula. Then the student must go to DPS and pass a written test. Then there is a six month period where the student must have at least 30 hours of behind the wheel instruction with the parent in the front passenger seat. I taught all three of my children. I was not even tempted to cheat. These are my children and the thought of one of them being injured or injuring someone else because I took a shortcut was unbearable.

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  11. Dougbert says:

    It seems to me that you’re missing one of the incentives here.
    At least in the US when my stepson was in this process, the parents were legally required to maintain the insurance for the child until he/she turned 18. That gave my wife and me incentive to make sure he knew what he was doing, to that our car insurance rates didn’t go up any more than they already just had (for having an 16-yr-old male on our insurance).

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  12. Siobhan says:

    As a parent in this position, I’ve already had conversations with other parents about this very topic. The general consensus is to just sign off on the hours. There are a few of us who are doing it by the book, but in my limited sample, it seems to be the exception.

    The reasons I won’t lie are that I really feel she needs as much practice as possible (she’s not very good) and I don’t want to endorse the idea of lying. It feels to me like you’re giving your kids the ok to go through life cheating. (I’m not an idiot, I know everyone lies, but parents shouldn’t normalize it)

    I would love some sort of assisted driving car! It would give me a lttle security.

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  13. Adam says:

    In California, at least when I got my license, it also required that your parent sign a declaration that “you have given your child the training recommended in the parent’s driving lesson handbook” or something to that effect. This meant something like 50 hours of training of which at least 10 hours were at night. But, the fact they said “based on the handbook’s recommendations” and nobody actually had said handbook, most parents just signed whenever they wanted to let their kids get their license.

    I wonder what the government could do to encourage parents to be truthful.

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  14. caleb b says:

    Not only did my mom lie about supervising my driving….she didn’t even go with me to get my license. I drove myself.

    That being said, she was the master of open disregard for the “honor” system. I signed my own report cards, made my own sick notes, and lied about summer reading lists. Every science fair project was a complete fabrication. Her words were, “if someone isn’t checking, then no one cares.”

    Alternatively, “Your third grade teacher doesn’t get paid enough to check your source.”

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  15. Eric M. Jones says:

    In Los Angeles, a Russian emigre friend (who was also illiterate), struggled with the written portion of the test, then went up to the window and begged. The guy at the window gave him a phone number and whispered, “Call me after 8:00 tonight. It will be $350. If there are ANY city licenses you want, I have those too.”

    Ah, bureaucracy.

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    • Seminymous Coward says:

      My state allows a translator for the written test. An audio recording is made, but I highly doubt it’s checked or that simple pointing would be detected.

      I’m surprised California was less accommodating. I’ve previously provided their Chinese driver’s manual to non-English-speakers studying for a license in my state, which doesn’t have such a translation available; it was quite useful. California has it in Russian, as well. (They also have Spanish, Armenian, Farsi, Korean, Punjabi, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.)

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  16. Michael says:

    Here in my state in the USA, I see lots of people get their learners permit and their parents refuse to let them drive with it most of the time. Personally, I would prefer to see my children drive practically all of the time while on a learners permit (as opposed to myself driving) so that they gain tons of experience while being supervised by me. This is also how my parents handled things when I was on a learners permit. I believe that this helped me out a lot in my beginning years of driving and being able to make decisions while driving that kept me accident free especially during those first few years of driving solo. If these type of driving regulations existed I would certainly follow the rule because it is paramount to my child’s safety. It is my opinion that cars are inherently dangerous and I would definitely want any children I allow to drive solo to gain as much experience as possible beforehand so that they drive as safely as possible. I’m not sure that expensive lessons are necessary where parents take the time to be good driving instructors however, I would rather pay for expensive lessons than have my child end up with an injury that affects them for the rest of their life because they failed to gain necessary driving experiences.

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  17. AaronS says:

    I would not lie. Not only because I am a Christian, and not only because it would be a very poor example to set for my son (whom I teach that it is better to fail a test than to cheat on one), but for another reason, as well: I would be afraid that if my child was killed or seriously injured in a car accident soon after obtaining his license, I would go to my grave not only mourning his misfortune, but blaming myself for it.

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  18. Joe D says:

    With only one child, my time cost is not as large as that of a parent with several. Knowing that many parents would cheat on this, I’m going to spend as many hours as necessary to ensure that my daughter can survive alongisde the maniac kids the rest of you see fit to unleash on our public roads. :)

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  19. Donald says:

    Australian here, where the hours system seems pretty widespread.

    The answer is… everyone fudges. Whether it’s rounding up hours, claiming hours driven by the supervisor to the learner or just making up hours, it’s rare to have a completely honest logbook. Here in NSW you have to do 120 hours, all supervised – and no checks. So really no surprise.

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  20. Richard says:

    Here in Victoria (Australia) it is also 120hrs, and I’ve got my daughter coming up which I’m not looking forward to. Lots of stories around about Vic Roads refusing log books with errors and crossings out. So the lesson is be careful about fudging and you’ll be right.

    Here the theory test is able to be taken in: English, Albanian, Macedonian, Somali, Arabic, Persian, Spanish, Cambodian, Russian, Turkish, Chinese (Mandarin), Serbian & Vietnamese.

    My wife is a French speaker and had to take it in English.


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  21. Steve says:

    In Kentucky we have to fill out a sheet recording 100 hours of driving over 6 months for our kids, I know parents that fudged, we did not.

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  22. sean says:

    Not only did my wife’s parents help her get a drivers licence, but they paid for a fake id so that she could drive herself to school at the age of 15, thus saving themselves many hours in the Jakarta traffic!

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  23. Jean says:

    I did not let my children take the drivers test until they had practiced a lot with me and they were comfortable in all aspects of driving. We did practice a lot, but was it the required 50 hours? I honestly have no idea because we were not organized enough to keep track of everything.

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  24. Adam says:

    My high school offered a Driver’s Ed class which I took. The class taught driving out of a textbook, and throughout the whole class I never even saw a real car. My dad taught me how to drive, and when the deadline for applying for the next license level was approaching, we took several “road trips” and added hours to my log. I was nervous the MVD people would grill us on my hours, but they barely glanced at it. If the system isn’t substantially different from how it is now when I have kids, I probably will go about it much the same way.

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  25. JoAnna says:

    I wonder how the housekeepers feel about it? I’d been told that housekeepers would much rather see you post the “do not disturb” sign, allowing them to skip your room that day, than get a tip.

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    • JoAnna says:

      OOPS! wrong article. more coffee required to operate at full capacity. sorry. please delete the above, and this one.

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