Having a child get their learner’s permit or driver’s license can be an extremely nerve-wracking experience for a parent or guardian. It’s a form of freedom your child has not yet had and you are putting a lot of trust in their hands. One way to ensure a more honest and open relationship about driving is to have a parent teen driving contract.
A parent-teen driving contract is an agreement between a parent and their child that outlines the expectations and responsibilities related to driving. It can cover items such as driving while under the influence, speeding, passenger limits, cell phone use, and curfew. These contracts are important because they help establish clear boundaries and consequences for risky behavior behind the wheel. They also promote open communication between parents and teens about driving habits and prevent misunderstandings or miscommunication in the future. In this article, we are going to break down 7 things that should be in all parent-teen driving contracts and share a sample contract to help you feel more secure with your teen driver on the open road.
Focus on Driving Only
We’ve all been tempted to check our phones, change the music, or chat with a passenger while behind the wheel. As we know, this can be very dangerous and around 400 deaths per year are caused by texting and driving. So when it comes down to it, any form of distraction can be dangerous. That’s why including a clause about driving distraction-free in a parent-teen driving contract is so important.
Having your child stay distraction free could mean anything: limiting the passengers to one other person in the car at a time, no touching their GPS unless they’re parked, or only staying on streets the driver already knows. The biggest part of being distraction free is having your child agree not to text and drive or check their phone and drive. Maintaining awareness and presence of mind on the road, they will not only keep themselves safe, but also others on the road around them. Even something as simple as sending a quick text or changing radio stations can drastically increase the likelihood of getting into an accident. So having a clause in your parent teen driver agreement about no phone use and limiting distractions is a must.
Follow the Rules
It’s easy to think that following the rules of the road is a no-brainer, but it’s actually incredibly important for the safety of not just your teen driver, but everyone else on the road. A parent-teen driving contract should highlight the importance of obeying all traffic laws, including speed limits, traffic signals, and all rules of a provisional driver’s license. Following these laws helps prevent accidents and keeps everyone safe on the road. It also avoids any potential legal trouble for both the teen driver and their parents. Plus, it sets a good example for future behavior as a responsible driver. So make sure to include “following the rules of the road” in your parent-teen driving contract.
Irresponsible driving can lead to costly consequences like getting a ticket or a license suspension. As a parent, it’s important to talk to your teen about responsible driving practices and establish consequences for breaking these rules. By setting ground rules and holding your teen accountable, you are helping them become safe and responsible drivers for the long run. “Being responsible” definitely belongs on that parent-teen driving contract.
Will Not Drink and Drive
It’s important to be clear with your teen driver that drinking and driving is never okay – you should include this in their parent-teen driving contract. (Note: even if you think they would never touch alcohol underage, it’s still important to include this).
The contract should state that any violation of drinking and driving laws will result in the loss of driving privileges. No exceptions. This is an essential rule to ensure the safety of everyone on the road. It’s important to let your teen know just how dangerous this can be and to go over the ramifications that come along with a DUI. So let’s make sure we all do our part to keep ourselves and others safe by committing to never drink and drive.
This is where a parent can customize the parent teen driving contract specifically to their child. This could include things like curfew rules, number of people in the vehicle at a time, limiting what time your child is driving, what freeways/streets, or in what weather.
You know your child best, so you can set up boundaries that work for both of you. For example, you could say Sunday-Thursday your child is not allowed to drive after 8 PM and may allow a later time on a Friday and Saturday night like 11 PM. Or if you are worried about weather situations, do not allow them to drive in the rain or snow until you’ve had more time to teach them how to be safe.
Another way to ensure safety is to limit where they can drive. A new driver limited to familiar territory eliminates the need for GPS and it’s a good way to make sure your new driver stays hands free.
In parent-teen driving contracts, this is where you can both sit down and compromise on what seems fair and what rules need to be implemented. As a parent, remember to be receptive to what your teen is saying, but it’s important to remind your teen that driving is a privilege and you can set the boundaries you feel will keep your child the safest. They have the rest of their lives to become stronger, more independent drivers.
Penalties for Breaking the Contract
This part will, again, vary greatly on every parent-teen driving contract. As a parent, you can set penalties for breaking the rules of the road or the restrictions on the contract. A traffic violation, for example, might mean that your teen needs to do work around the house and cannot drive until they have paid the ticket. Or if they are driving around with more people in the car than in the contract, you could take privileges away on a Friday night.
As a parent or guardian, you know what types of penalties will work best for your child, so take this as a time to really incentivize your child to be safe behind the wheel and follow the restrictions you sent in place. At the end of the day, safety for your child is what is most important, and that’s the message you want to try to get across.
Finally, a parent teen driving contract should have signatures from both parties. The parent and teen should both sit down and thoroughly go over the contract, discuss each point, and sign when they both agree. This is a good way for each party to hold each other accountable. With both parties’ signatures, should the time come, there should be no discussion and no debate on penalties or expectations. A parent teen driving contract is a great way to curve expectations and make sure everyone is on the same page. You can see a parent teen driving contract outlined by the CDC here:
Parent Teen Driving Agreement from CDC.