It can be hard enough raising a teenager, but once they get to driving age, a whole new fear comes into play: is my teenager truly ready to sit behind the wheel of a 1500KG killing machine? Rest assured, with the right driving school, a thorough knowledge of the Netherlands' rules of the road, and a lot of faith, it is possible. It just doesn’t come cheap!
Of the 1.3 million people in the Netherlands who take their driving test every year, only 41% pass one their first try according to the CBR (Central Driving Bureau)! What can you do to help your teenager pass their test and be the best driver, Dutch style, they can be? Here's what you need to know to get your teen through this important rite of passage.
What Is the Driving Age in the Netherlands?
There are stages:
- At 16.5 years old, you are allowed to take the Driving Theory Exam and begin actual driving lessons.
- At 17 years old, you are allowed to take the Driving Exam, although even if you pass the exam, you are not yet allowed to drive unaccompanied. There must be a licensed driver seated next to the new driver who a) has had a Dutch or European driver's license for at least 5 years, and b) is registered by the gemeente as one of the five people who are allowed to drive with the new driver.
- At 18 years old, you are allowed to drive alone.
What Can You Do to Prepare Your Teen to Drive?
Once your teenager shows an interest in driving, you can start preparing them to be behind the wheel by making them your co-pilot! Have them look out for oncoming traffic at roundabouts, ask them how to best navigate through a busy intersection, etc. Basically, make them aware of how driving rules are played out everyday in your commute and in your neighborhood.
Important: Do not let them drive around in your car, even in abandoned parking lots! The Police are very strict about such infractions of Dutch law!
How to Prepare for the Driving Theory Exam
Books on the Driving Theory Exams are available at every driving school; there are also practice apps and practice exams available online. Your driving school will most likely offer a Driving Theory study class, which can be a good option for teens; having a dedicated time to focus with minimal distraction can help them absorb the information. Be wary of the crash courses known as "Theorie Spoed Cursus". Driving Theory is the basis of being a good and safe driver, and ought not be rushed. The ideal approach is to buy a book, read a chapter daily, and do the practice exams (whether in a book or online). Then, depending on how well the practice exams go, perhaps take a few classes at a school to reinforce the information.
Some Driving Theory Exam sites:
How Many Classes Do You Need?
The CBR recommends a minimum of 38 driving classes per person. It’s important not to simply go for the cheapest, quickest option. Have your teen take a trial lesson before picking out a package to determine at what level they are functioning. The instructors can pretty much pinpoint after one lesson the strengths and weaknesses of a given student, and advise accordingly.
How Much Does It Cost?
Get ready ... getting your license in the Netherlands is expensive!
On average a class costs about €40/hour (x38 classes minimum), and an exam costs €260. A Theory Exam costs €35, and study material can cost around €45. In total, it will cost about €2,000 to for your teen to get their driver’s license.
How to Find a Good Driving School
There are so many driving schools in Amsterdam that it’s hard to pick out the perfect school via an internet search, but here are a few pointers:
- Be skeptical of a “guaranteed success” claim – there is no way to give a guarantee on passing! Some excellent drivers fail their driving test because of nerves and, like it or not, sometimes results are impacted by whether the examiner is having a bad day.
- Be sure to read a school's online reviews carefully; some of a school’s rave reviews can come from from fake profiles!
- Last but not least – the student needs to click with the teacher. Taking a trial class not only reveals a driving student’s strengths and weaknesses, but is also a great way to learn about a teacher's methods. If you feel that a different approach or teacher is needed, ask the school – or try a different school.
Some well regarded driving schools include:
As challenging as this process can be, it is good to know that a Dutch driver's license is a truly good foundation for a lifetime of driving ... wherever they drive. Don't forget to enjoy the time it will free up for you!
Lana Huf-Germain is a born and bred Amsterdammer. She understands the difficulties faced by international families with no grasp of the language or history, and the extra problems this brings raising a family in Amsterdam. She started Amsterdam Family Assistance to help families new to the Netherlands overcome these barriers and make them feel at home.