The Solution to my Teen Driving Dilemma-The Safe Driving Contract

| May 25, 2010 | Comments (0)

Without a doubt, one of the most stressful times of my life was the moment I realized that my daughter, Brittany,  would soon be a legal driver.  Any parent that has the “joy” of raising a teenager (or several, like me) already knows what I am talking about.  There are a ton of reasons why the prospect of your child being behind the wheel is so terrifying.

As a parent, you find yourself worrying about a whole new set of issues, as if you didn’t already have enough.  Obviously, you have to worry about the dangers of driving and the harm that can come to them, their friends and others.  (Car crashes are the biggest cause of death for American teenagers) You also find yourself being apprehensive about their increased freedom; their new license giving them the means to travel around town, and possibly to places they shouldn’t be.  Add to that, the possibility of them driving YOUR vehicle, the same vehicle that you have taken such good care of, and you can see the reasons for my mounting stress.

Of course it is not all bad.  With your teenager now able to drive themselves around town, you will find yourself with free time that you haven’t had in at least 16 years.  No more having to drive them around town for dance recitals, basketball games, or any number of extracurricular activities.  I am sure we can all agree that while we love our children, being their afterschool cab can be taxing at times.

There is also the time you save by sending them on errands.  If you need something from the grocery store for the night’s dinner, guess who is going? They are.  Sending your kids on errands is one of the great joys of them driving, and I fully recommend it to any parent with a teenager in home.

Being an attorney, I naturally felt the most effective way to hold them responsible for the privilege of driving was to have them sign a Safe Driving Contract.  I wanted to ensure that my kids (my son, Justin, has since signed the contract)  understood that there are consequences for their actions and that they have to be responsible and law abiding citizens. Driving a car is a huge responsibility and they need to recognize that serious repercussions exist if they misuse or abuse the privilege that we have given them.

The contract outlines very specific consequences based on the violation.

My daughter Brittany and I

1. Traffic violations: one to two weeks, depending on violation

2. Unsafe or reckless driving: three to six weeks

3. Alcohol or drug related situations: six months (or longer)

4. Driving another person’s vehicle or allowing another to drive your vehicle: two days to four weeks

5. Does not notify parents of delays of more than 30 minutes: two weeks

6. Does not notify parents of change in route/destination: one weekend per occurrence

7. Does not notify parents of accidents: four to six weeks

8. Runs out of gas: one day for first occurrence, two days for second, etc.

9. Exhibits uncooperative attitude toward errand responsibilities: one weekend

10. Does not notify parents of mechanical malfunction: one weekend

11. Does not maintain ____%or better in every subject: three weeks

12. Takes the car without permission or does not notify parent of intent to use car: one to six months

Once we  signed the contract it was up to BOTH of us to uphold our ends of the bargain.  That meant that if the rules were broken, it was time for me to “parent” up and adhere to the outlined punishments.

Of course, enforcing some of the terms of the agreement may prove to be inconvenient for us (as we will need to schlep our kids to and from school, activities, etc), but the lessons taught and enforced send a louder message to teen drivers that we mean what we say.

The fact of the matter is that teenagers behind the wheel can be very dangerous.  The numbers prove it.  I am not saying that the contract I used should be mandatory, but I do believe that it made a huge difference for my family.  If you would like a copy of the contract, you can download it for free here.  The idea of signing a contract with your teenager might sound silly now, but I can assure you that you will be thanking me later when they get their first speeding ticket and then want to complain about the week they have with no car.  They will find it hard to argue with their own signature. Trust me.

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Category: Lawyer's Advice

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