Today a mom asked me, “Can Au Pairs drive the kids around?”
If you have children who need you to drive them here, there, and everywhere, you might also wonder whether an Au Pair can help you with driving. Well, good news! Yes, Au Pairs can drive.
Parents are busy and our kids are making us busier! Mom’s taxi is driving all over town, but Mom is too busy making a healthy dinner to drive. This is an ongoing problem for many families on both weeknights and weekends.
Au Pairs can be an excellent time-management solution. They can help you solve other parenting problems, too. The key to success is understanding your Au Pair’s previous training and level of experience, assessing driving skills, and providing rules or guidelines for car usage.
“She is an amazing and responsible driver,” says Inga, Host Mom to South African Au Pair, Safeera. “Which is comforting for parents who need help with transportation.”
Advantages of Hosting an Au Pair Who Drives
If you think you don’t need an Au Pair to drive, think again. You may not need the children to be driven around, but your Au Pair will need to attend classes, cultural events, and just get out to meet friends. Unless you want to add to Mom’s to-do list, you might want an Au Pair who can drive herself around.
There are many advantages to hosting an Au Pair with driving experience. Whether or not your kids need to go to school or activities, driving enables your Au Pair to take them fun places.
Plus, if your Au Pair can take the kids around town, it lightens your load and frees up time in your schedule. Imagine having extra time to prep healthier dinners, spend more quality time with your kids or spouse, or even just kick back with a glass of wine and relax after a long day.
How to Interview Au Pairs for Driving Skills
If your family needs an Au Pair who can drive, this is a vital topic of discussion during your interview.
I can’t stress how important it is to get detailed information about your Au Pair’s driving experiences. This will help your family make an informed, intelligent decision.
The answer to the question, “Can Au Pairs drive?” is really subjective. Au Pairs are typically able to drive, but whether they will fulfill your family’s need for a driver is a totally different question.
Ask open-ended questions to find a driver who meets your needs.
Ask candidates more open-ended questions about their driving experiences, rather than yes-no questions. Questions such as, “What is it like to drive in your country?” , “What kind(s) of cars have you driven? What do you usually drive?” , and “Tell me about the last time you drove. Where did you go?”
These types of questions will provide more detail than questions with a one-word answer. This will also help you assess the candidate’s English language skills.
There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” answer to the questions you pose.
Some Au Pairs have had passengers record a video of them driving. This way, Host Families can see the Au Pair behind the wheel and even the type of vehicle and driving conditions.
Au Pairs want to keep your kids safe. Interviewing for driving skills helps you ensure that your Au Pair is able to do this. However, most Au Pairs will also need time to acclimate to driving in the U.S., even if they have extensive driving experience in their home country.
One of our Host Moms, Theresa, noticed how dedicated their Au Pair was to safe driving. “[Ale] is a very careful driver,” she says. “She is attentive and focused on keeping the boys safe. She genuinely cares for them and loves them.”
Our Au Pair profiles show you how many years a candidate has been a licensed driver. You can also see which types of road and traffic conditions they’re accustomed to, and the types of vehicles they drive at home.
Bonus: Register for free in our online community & get exclusive access to our Best Practice Guide to Matching with a Driving Au Pair!
What is an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) and Does My Au Pair Need one?
If your Au Pair is a licensed driver in his or her home country, an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) can be obtained before your Au Pair leaves for the US. The IDP is simply an English translation of the home country license.
If your Au Pair is not licensed to drive at home, he or she cannot obtain an IDP and will need to go through the normal processes to obtain a state-issued driver’s license in the state you live.
Instruct your Au Pair to get an IDP before leaving their home country because one cannot be obtained once you are in the US. Does an Au Pair definitely need the IDP? It is highly recommended, but individual state laws determine whether or not your Au Pair can use an IDP to drive.
The IDP does not automatically allow Au Pairs to drive in the US. Each state has its own rules about international drivers. Check with yours.
Host Families and Au pairs can check with their local department of motor vehicles or ask their Local Area Representative. Some states do not recognize certain country’s licenses, or may only allow a very limited time period (like 30 days) to use the IDP. Other states allow up to a full year to use the IDP, as long as the home license is still valid. Your Au Pair can drive, but be sure to check the laws in your state.
How Can I Assess an Au Pair’s Driving Skills?
Many Host Families choose to match with an Au Pair who can drive, even if the children won’t be in the car.
After you interview and match with an Au Pair who can drive, it is time to assess your Au Pairs’ driving skills and potentially provide extra training.
Some Host Families decide to assess their Au Pair’s driving skill themselves, usually with just one Host Parent and the Au Pair driving in an empty parking lot, moving up to driving in traffic. Several practice sessions may be necessary before you are comfortable letting your Au Pair drive the family car on her own.
Other Host Families utilize the services of local or national driver training schools, who have certified driver trainers who can provide a fair evaluation and, if needed, further training.
Some Host Families have their Au Pairs obtain a state-issued driver’s license for the peace-of-mind that comes from knowing he or she passed the written and road test. Host Families are also responsible for adding their Au Pairs to the family auto insurance policy. It’s a good idea to check on the cost beforehand. The cost of adding an Au Pair to your policy varies widely between insurance companies.
Your insurance company may not insure your Au Pair without a U.S. license, so be sure to check on that ahead of time. (In this case, there is usually a grace period during which your Au Pair can obtain a U.S. license).
In the case of an accident, Au Pairs can be held responsible for the insurance deductible, up to $500.
Are Au Pairs really safe drivers?
Every Au Pair is different. It’s up to you to decide whether or not your Au Pair can take the family car. You also make the final decision on whether your Au Pair can drive your kids around or not.
Have you asked your Au Pair if she ever got a speeding ticket or had an accident? If you spent some time talking with your Au Pair about driving before you matched, you probably chose a safe driver.
If you could have done a better job asking those questions, there’s still hope. Driving services can help Host Families decide if an Au Pair needs more training. Practice and instruction can improve skills, too.
Even if your Au Pair isn’t comfortable with driving on U.S. roads right away, it doesn’t mean they aren’t a safe driver. Depending on where your Au Pair is from, driving can be very different in the U.S. Work with your Au Pair on driving and it’s likely he or she will become comfortable soon.
Be sure to talk openly about your concerns. Encourage your Au Pair to be honest with you about how it feels to drive.
Set guidelines for your Au Pair’s car use.
Host Families also set the guidelines for car usage. This includes how far the car can go, who drives, who pays for gas, and who comes along.
It can be beneficial to ask your Au Pair for input on guidelines. Allowing them to have a say shows them that you respect their autonomy as an adult. It also means they’re more likely to understand why the guidelines are important to you.
Host Families are as different as their Au Pairs. Some have a car for their Au Pair to use exclusively. Other families let their Au Pair use one of the parent’s vehicles on evenings and weekends.
Be sure to impress upon your Au Pair the significance of allowing him or her to use your car. Some families charge the going rate of gas per mile for off-duty usage. Others ask their Au Pair to fill up her own gas for private trips. Naturally, Host Families pay for gas any on-duty driving.
Note: It’s against regulations to ask your Au Pair to pay for oil changes or compensate you for wear and tear on the car. (If you have questions about this, talk to your Placement Coordinator for clarification).
Driving as an Au Pair duty vs. driving during free time
Driving can be a duty assigned to your Au Pair, like Host Mom Stacie, whose Au Pair gets the kids to schools on both sides of town. “I don’t know how she does it. She somehow manages to get all children to where they need to be, on time, all with everyone clean, dressed, fed and most importantly, happy.”
Driving is also a privilege. Host Families need to outline safe driving rules and guidelines. It’s a good idea to work on this with your Au Pair, whether or not the kids will be in the car. Go Au Pair provides families resource materials based on our years of experience. Be sure to review all rules and guidelines with your Au Pair before he or she takes the car. Be clear about family rules, like no smoking in the car, among others. Review local laws regarding drinking and driving, cell phone use, emergency vehicles, and what to do if pulled over. Safe drivers follow rules of the road or they lose the privilege. Host Families can revoke driving privileges if safety rules are not followed.
Pro Tip: Remember to show your Au Pair how to pump gas!
Au Pairs Lighten Your Load When They Drive
Now that you know the answer to the question, “Can Au Pairs drive,” you can make an informed decision about finding an Au Pair with driving experience.
Au Pairs are typically safe drivers, especially when given the guidance and support of Host Families who need them.
You’re hosting an Au Pair to make life simpler. Let your Au Pair take some of the driving off of your schedule. Then, you can get to the gym, make that meeting, or just get dinner started.
Ensure success with constant communication from the interview process throughout the experience. Match with an Au Pair who has a safe driving record and some time with a license.
Know the laws in your state. Assess a candidate’s driving ability before you match. Assess her driving skills live in person. Make a driving plan and try to follow it.
You might be pleasantly surprised by how safely your Au Pair drives!