Getting Around


Did You Know?

Today, an average youth takes more trips and travels more miles on alternative transportation, such as biking, public transit, and walking than a youth did 15 years ago.

-The National Household Travel Survey (NHTS)

Getting Around

Once youth are old enough to get a driver’s license, they become very excited about hitting the open road. Using this guide, we can give them information about the many transportation options in Virginia, so they can make cost effective and safe choices.

Public transportation

If you asked the youth in your care about using the bus, would they pull out an app about public transportation? Youth today have the option of using public transit conveniently and can get schedules in real time. For example, in Arlington youth can use  Bus Finder, which is installed on bus stops in the city and indicates where the bus is relative to the stop. After they transition out of foster care, youth tend to move around a lot. Using Walk Score,  youth see whether the place they live or are thinking about living is better for biking, walking or using public transportation.


With the Metro, Virginia’s subway, youth can get around the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and its suburbs in Virginia and Maryland, without getting stuck in traffic, looking for parking or paying for gas.

Trip planner

Metro’s Trip Planner covers both trains and buses. Youth can use it to plan routes between two destinations. It allows users to choose a trip itinerary based on preferences. Suggested trip itineraries also include the fare, the estimated travel time, and walking directions.


If youth really can’t get from place to place without a car, we can suggest they use carpooling, also known as vanpooling and ridesharing. It’s a great way to reduce the cost of fuel, insurance and tolls, as well as reducing the stress of driving. Many Virginians get to and from work using a carpool. Virginia Rideshare Agencies provides links to many rideshare options throughout the state as does Rideshare.

Remind youth that they may not need to sign up with a formal agency to share a ride. People who the youth work with or go to school with may be willing to give a ride in exchange for gas money.


Bicycles can be faster than cars, especially in cities where there are bike lanes. Cycling is healthier and much less expensive than driving. Walking is another option, one sometimes overlooked by young people. If the youth is living on-campus while going to school, walking or biking may be a very good transportation option and save a lot of money. 


Youth must weigh the feeling of independence they can get from having a car against the costs and safety needs. How can we open this conversation? Ask youth if they know someone with a license and how they feel about being in a car with them. Having an adult in their life who demonstrates good habits makes it much more likely that the youth will develop good habits as well. When youth do not have a good role model, a Driver’s education course  becomes even more important. It is a good idea to encourage such courses for all youth. Car insurance companies love seeing a driver education certificate. It means the youth has taken the time to learn the rules of the road as well as get behind-the-wheel experience. As a result, insurance premiums may be lower.

Getting a learner’s permit

To be eligible for a learner’s permit, youth must be at least 15 years and six months old. They will need proof of identity and of legal residency. Usually, a birth certificate provides both. For a complete list of the documents needed, refer youth to If the youth is under 18, a parent or guardian must provide written consent. If the youth is a Virginia resident under age 19, he or she must complete a Virginia state-approved driver education program and hold a Virginia learner’s permit for at least nine months.

To get a permit, youth will need to pay a fee and take a written test about the rules of the road. They must also take a vision test. Once a youth receives the Learner’s Permit, he or she can practice driving with a responsible driver over the age of 21 until ready to take the road test. 

Driver’s education

Youth can participate in classes to prepare for permits and to discuss safety issues. An average of six to eight driving lessons are included in the fee, which typically ranges between $170 and $350.  Students who earn a driver’s education certificate will get a discount on car insurance and will be able to get their licenses at the age of 16.5 years instead of 17, the minimum age to obtain a driver’s license without driver’s education classes.

Written exam

Through the Department of Motor Vehicles, youth can get a booklet to study for the written exam. The multiple choice written exam covers traffic signs, motor vehicle laws and safe driving techniques.

Road test

Once a youth passes the written exam, he or she is eligible to take the road test. Youth must come to the road test with a registered and properly insured car that meets all safety regulations. Youth will also need to be accompanied by someone over 21 who has a valid driver’s license.  Fees are charged for the road test and for the license. If the youth fails the road test, he or she must wait two days before trying again.

Other costs of driving

In addition to the cost of buying a car, youth will have to pay for gas, insurance, maintenance — tires, oil change, etc. — and may have to pay for parking, particularly if he or she lives or works in a city. Be sure to talk to youth about all the costs. It’s reasonably easy today to calculate the cost to get from one place to another with Virginia Gas Prices. By filling in the destination, and type of car including make and year, youth can get a good estimate and make an informed decision about whether it’s better to drive or use alternative transportation.


Does the youth in your care know that once they have a driving permit in hand, they begin to generate a driving record? Driving records are exactly what they sound like: records of driving history. Car insurance providers use driving records or motor vehicle reports to determine the risk of insuring a driver, no matter their age. Generally, the worse the driving record, the higher the premium. Each traffic infraction can increase insurance rates and may lead to permit or license suspension or revocation.

Deductible versus premium

A car insurance premium is paid for coverage. The deductible is the money paid by the insured person before insurance coverage will pay anything toward the cost of an accident. Generally, the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Because premiums are paid out much more often than deductibles (a deductible is paid only after an accident), youth should know that paying higher deductibles could keep their regular payments down. However, youth should keep in mind that accidents can happen, so the deductible they choose should be one they can reasonably afford.


Let youth know that having a car is great but owning one is expensive and may not be the only way to get from one place to another. Public transit, bicycling, walking or riding with someone else as part of a carpool should all be considered.