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)
What’s your favorite way to go places?
You are going places! How will you get there?
Having a car is great but owning one is expensive and a car is not the only way to get around. Depending upon where you live, there may be a great public transit system in place — buses and trains — or you may be able to use a bicycle, walk or ride with someone else as part of a carpool.
How can I get around without a car?
Owning a car: What freedom that brings! And what expense. Before you get a car just because you want one, think about options and costs. While having a car is great, it’s not the only way to get around. Depending upon where you live, you may have access to public transit system, such as buses, trains or ridesharing. Or you may be able to cycle or walk to the places you need to go, such as work, school, shopping and entertainment.
You might be surprised, but bicycles can be faster than cars, especially where there are bike lanes. And let’s not forget two other great advantages: Cycling is healthier and much less expensive. Depending on where you live, walking is another option. If you are living on-campus while going to school, this may be a very good option and save you a lot of money.
The Metro is Virginia’s subway. With the Metro, you 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.
Metro’s Trip Planner covers both trains and buses. It helps you plan routes between two destinations. It allows you to choose your trip itinerary based on your preferences. Suggested trip itineraries also include the fare, the estimated travel time, and walking directions.
If you really can’t get from place to place without a car, consider 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 gives you links to many rideshare options throughout the state as does rideshare.
You may not need to sign up with a formal agency to share a ride. People you work with or go to school with may be willing to give you a ride in exchange for gas money. That’s a lot cheaper than owning a car.
Depending on where you live, you may really need a car to get to work, school and events you want to join. Having one is a huge privilege that comes with a lot of responsibility and costs a lot of money. Before you buy a car, you need to get your license. To get your license, you first need to get a learner’s permit.
Getting your learner’s permit
To be eligible for a learner’s permit, you must be at least 15 years and six months old. You will need proof of identity and of legal residency. Usually, a birth certificate provides both. For a complete list of the documents that you will need, check out http://dmv.virginia.gov/. If you are under 18, a parent or guardian must provide written consent. If you are a Virginia resident under age 19, you must complete a Virginia state-approved driver education program and hold your Virginia learner’s permit for at least nine months.
To get your permit, you will pay a fee and take a written test about the rules of the road as well as a vision test. When you receive your learner’s permit, you can practice driving with a responsible driver over the age of 21 until you feel ready to take the road test.
You 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 their car insurance and will be able to get their licenses at the minimum age of 16.5 years instead of 17, the minimum age to obtain a driver’s license without driver’s education classes. Many high schools offer driver’s education and sometimes even driving lessons. You should check with your school’s guidance counselor to see if this option is available at your school because it is often the easiest and cheapest way to obtain your license.
Through the Department of Motor Vehicles, you can get a booklet to study for your written exam. The multiple choice written exam covers traffic signs, motor vehicle laws and safe driving techniques. All 10 traffic sign questions in Part One must be answered correctly before you can take the general knowledge exam in Part Two. You must score at least 80% on these questions to pass so be sure to study carefully. If you fail the written test, you must wait 15 days to take the test again and you may have to pay an additional fee to be retested.
Once you’ve passed the written exam, you are eligible to take the road test to see how well you can drive. You must come to your road test with a registered and properly insured car that meets all safety regulations. You will also need to be accompanied by someone over 21 who has a valid driver’s license. You will pay a fee for the road test and for the license. If you fail the road test, you must wait two days before trying again.
Once you are on the road, you’ll quickly realize that not everyone drives well. Some people tailgate, others may not pay attention and wander into your lane, turn without signaling or do something else that puts you in danger. Knowing how to spot trouble ahead is the best way to get safely from place to place. Though Virginia has not officially approved the online National Safety Council Defensive Driving Course, it’s worth taking because it may help you avoid accidents and it may reduce your insurance premiums.
Being a good driver means taking responsibility if an accident occurs. Make sure you do not cause damage to yourself or anyone else and that you can handle the costs if an accident does happen.
Liability coverage protects you if you are at fault in an accident. Comprehensive coverage takes care of damage to the car you’re driving. Collision coverage pays to repair or replace a vehicle if it’s involved in a crash. Virginia requires that you have insurance for:
- Bodily injury/death of one person.
- Bodily injury/death of two or more persons.
- Property damage.
What If I don’t have insurance?
If you don’t have insurance, you will have to pay a $500 fee to the DMV when you register your car. The fee does not provide insurance, so if you are in an accident, you will have to pay for any injury or damage that you caused.
How are insurance premiums (rates) determined?
Insurance rates vary based on factors such as:
- Your driving record.
- Age and type of vehicle (if you buy comprehensive and collision coverage).
- Your age.
- Your sex.
- Where you live.
- Your credit history.
How long will my policy last?
Your policy term insures you for a specific period of time such as one month, six months, or 12 months. The company may continue your policy or refuse to renew your policy at the end of the term or raise the cost of the policy.
Other costs of driving
In addition to the cost of buying a car, you will have to pay for gas, insurance, maintenance — tires, oil change, etc. — and may have to pay for parking, particularly if you live or work in a city. These costs are in addition to any monthly payments you make to pay off the cost of the car. Be sure you include all the costs when planning how you will get around when you age out of foster care.
Being independent and going in new directions is exciting and will lead you to discover places you’ve never been. Planning the best way to get from here to there is a great step towards knowing what it’s like to live on your own. You have many options. The one you choose today may not be the one that is best for you in a year.
I could use more info about getting around:
- Trip Planner
- Virginia Rideshare Agencies
- Written Driving Exam
- Online National Safety Council Defensive Driving Course
- Teenager’s Guide to Auto Insurance – Virginia State
Walk Score – see whether your area is better for biking , walking or using public transportation.
- Public Transportation by County
- Virginia Bike Map
- Bikeable Richmond
- Bike Safety