Learning how to drive is step one. Developing "house rules" for your driver is step two. Third is when the teenager actually gets a license to drive.
House Rule for Teen Drivers
- Some families develop a written contract, carefully explaining actions and consequences of mistakes while driving.
- Some families do NOT have a written contract, and instead have clearly discussions with their child, explaining the responsibilities and consequences.
- Some families leave "house rules" up to common sense, the laws of the road, and drivers education classes. I don't recommend this method. Teenagers are impulsive, feel invincible, and often lack common sense. The law will not prevent bad things from happening, it only takes effect when laws are broken. Driver's education may be helpful, but it's not comprehensive, and won't help you when there's a breach of expectations.
That leaves a bunch of parents with a need to discuss house rules. What driving rules should you have with teenagers? What do you need to talk about?
5 Absolute Rules for Teenage Drivers
There are things that are always forbidden, and usually illegal.
- No texting while driving.
- No phone calls while driving.
- No cell phone use of any kind inside a vehicle.
- No Impaired driving. (You need to explain exactly what that means.)
- No riding with an unlicensed or irresponsible person.
15 Discussion Pointers for Teen Drivers
Parents need to discuss things that aren't illegal, too. Here are other things to discuss in depth.
- Who owns the car.
- Who possesses the car keys.
- Who pays for gas.
- Who pays for insurance.
- How to ask for the use of the car.
- Who can they take in the car.
- What time of day can they drive?
- Can they drive after dark?
- Should they avoid freeways? Until when?
- Should they avoid bad weather? Until when?
- What to do and who to call if they or other driver is impaired.
- Expectation they will obey the law.
- Expectation they will focus on driving when they are driving.
- Consequences for accidental behavior.
- Consequences of irresponsible behavior.
Natural Consequences for Teen Driving and Broken Rules
When problems occur, try to find natural consequences for behavior. Have teens pay for any tickets, fines, increased insurance rates, or other financial consequences. You may decide that if they lose their driving privileges, you won't drive them around for fun or activities, but only for school-related requirements.
Help the child learn from the consequences. Rather than "lay down the law" without any explanation, discuss what happened and why it was important. This is how your child will learn from what happened, and make sure it doesn't happen again. Hopefully, without anyone having a melt-down.
Provide logical consequences tied to the problem behavior. Breaking the rules about the car means loss of driving for a reasonable amount of time (One day, one week, or one month may be appropriate.) It's best when consequences are related to driving, rather than adding additional chores, for example, while continuing to allow driving privileges.
For parents that would like a written contract, I love the one provided by the CDC, the federal government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Download the CDC Parent-Teen Driving Agreement.
Each child is different, and you may have a different arrangement with each child.
Letting Go When Homeschooling Ends
Nothing is as scary as letting your child drive alone for the first time. You can't control what they will experience, but you can create a family pact for driving expectations. Watching them drive away for the first time is one step among many steps of "Letting Go" as your children grow up. Learn more in this article: The End of Homeschooling: When Did My Baby Grow Up?