Dale Wisely, Ph.D. www.parentingteendrivers.com
Why do a driving contract?
If your child dies during the teenage years, the most likely cause will be an auto accident. Your teenage driver is in danger of killing or injuring himself or herself or other innocent people. If you don’t do a contract, you will likely be vague in your rules and directions about driving. If you don’t do a contract, you can count on a lot of subsequent arguments based on “I thought you said…or “I thought you meant…”
The contract signals the teenager that driving is a serious and potentially deadly activity. Establish with the teenager, in advance, your firm insistence on a written agreement. You must be willing to state (and mean) that you will not allow the teen to drive independently until an agreement is reached, signed and followed. If possible, if two parents are involved, parents should reach an agreement about the contract before it is discussed with the teenager.
Use this contract as a model. Feel free to edit it and personalize it to your situation.
Sign it and provide a copy to the teenager. DO NOT ALLOW A TEENAGER TO DRIVE INDEPENDENTLY
UNTIL THE AGREEMENT IS NEGOTIATED, WRITTEN, REVISED, AND SIGNED! DON’T LET YOUR
TEEN DRIVE WITHOUT AN AGREEMENT.
Set a date to revise it after a period of time during which the teen drives. Schedule the review date
and put it on the calendar. On this review date, go through it and change the agreement a little (or a lot)
based on experience. Make it stricter if the teen’s behavior with the car warrants that. Make it a bit more
lenient, perhaps, if the teen is doing well. START WITH A FAIRLY STRICT CONTRACT.
Alcohol and drug use. While the contract has the young driver acknowledging that underage drinking is
illegal, it also includes a statement that if the young person drinks, he or she will not drive for 24 hours.
Some parents read this as permission to drink. It is, rather, an acknowledgment that people break laws and
do reckless things.
Limits on passengers. This is an essential rule. There is a very direct relationship between the number of
passengers in the car with a teenage driver, and the likelihood of an accident. It also, of course, increases
the number of potential deaths or injuries. We highly recommend not exceeding a limit of 1 passenger
during the first year of driving.
“Getting it.” Recently, I’ve been thinking about a concern I have about contracts of this type: Teenagers
may quickly sign it, without really “learning” the rules. Even if they do learn them, they may forget them.
So, I encourage you to think of creative ways to assure that they have really understood and retained the
rules. Some suggestions:
- Require your child to read the entire contract to you, aloud.
- Require your child to sit while you read it to them.
- Before signing, sit down together, read each item together, and discuss.
- Occasionally ask questions. Ex: “What does the contract say about curfew?”
For more information: http://www.parentingteendrivers.com