Don't let your teen take the wheel without a teen driving contract to keep them safe and give you peace of mind.
It's summer. Your favorite tune is full blast on the radio, the windows are down, and your foot is on the gas pedal. You're 16 and have a brand new driver's license. Life couldn't be better.
Only that isn't you anymore. It's your teenager who's about to hop behind the wheel. You, on the other hand, are about to have a stress-induced migraine just thinking about the trouble he or she may get into. Despite your years of successfully navigating traffic and hairpin turns, you also know how dangerous it can be for teen drivers. That's why you need a teen driving contract.
No matter how responsible your son or daughter is, the simple fact is that young drivers don't have the experience to safely navigate some of the dangers they may encounter on the road. The Centers for Disease Control note that, on average, six teens between the ages of 16 and 19 die each day from motor vehicle accidents.
These facts aren't here to scare you; it's important to understand the reality of the risk your teen faces, both as a driver and as a passenger with newly licensed friends. A teen driving contract can't eliminate the risk, but it can help your teen make better driving decisions.
The basics of a teen driving contract
Most states have a graduated driver's license system, which will get your contract off to a good start. In Illinois, for instance, teens get a provisional license which restricts late-night driving and the number of passengers they may have in the car.
State laws are, of course, non-negotiable. The remainder of your contract, however, can reflect your specific circumstances, like whether or not your teen shares a family car or has one of their own and what kind of job or responsibilities they may have.
We should also note that a teen driving contract should include your teen's role as a passenger with another young driver. Most of this contract can apply to both a driver and passenger, but there are times when you'll want your teen to take the steps necessary to remain safe even when they aren't behind the wheel.
It is vital to remember that a teen driving contract is designed to keep your teen safe. Peer pressure is a strong motivator, so be sure your contract is reasonable. If it feels too controlling or distrustful, your teen may decide their friends and their reputation are more important than your rules.
What goes into a teen driving contractYour job as a parent is to help your teen learn to drive. That means both the physical process as well as the emotional guidance they may need. Since a contract is an agreement between two or more parties, this one starts with your responsibilities as a parent.
Parent section: I will
- Be patient
- Teach you the mechanics of driving
- Answer as many questions as you have
- Practice driving with you
- Teach you basic car maintenance, such as how to check the oil and change a tire
- Gradually increase your freedom to use the car in relation to your experience and responsibility
- Always pick you up from dangerous or uncomfortable situations at any time with no questions
- Follow the rules of the road
- Always wear my seatbelt
- Always make my passengers wear a seatbelt
- Never drive if I have had an alcoholic beverage or drugs
- Not ride with anyone who has had an alcoholic beverage or drugs
- Not use my phone in any manner while driving
- Pull over in a safe place if I need to text or make a call
- Understand what to do in the event of a breakdown
- Understand what to do in the event of a collision
- Not pick up hitchhikers
Teen vehicle operation section: I will
- Follow the rules of the road (It bears repeating)
- Ensure there is gas in the car
- Be responsible for any parking tickets
- Understand how to change a flat tire
- Obey the posted speed limit
- Give myself adequate time to reach my destination
- Not let anyone else drive the car
- Keep the radio to a minimal volume and not use headphones while driving
- Ensure I give plenty of clearance to cyclists and pedestrians
You may or may not choose to include consequences for breaking the contract. Even if you don't incorporate them into the contract, make sure they are verbally stated and understood, and ensure that the punishment fits the crime. Revoking driving privileges for a month as the result of a $20 parking ticket may be overkill. Taking the keys away for 48 hours might not be enough should your teen drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Adjust accordingly.
Another important aspect of a parent and teen driving contract is to understand that it may not always be your teen who is driving. Always give your teen an easy out if they ride somewhere with a friend and end up in an uncomfortable situation.
Build a code into your communications that your teen can use to get out of potential danger with no questions asked on your part. For example, if they text or tell you they're having "the best time ever," that means they are in a situation they need you to get them out of. Call back a few minutes later to go pick them up. They can tell their friends something came up at home, and mom or dad can take all the blame. Your teen is safe, and so is his or her social status.
For parents and teens both, the right auto insurance is a must. Before you hand over the keys, contact your local Pekin Insurance agent to get the coverage you need.
Do you have a teen driving contract? What would you add to this list? Or what would you remove? Join the conversation in the comments.