When your teenager first gets their license, a whole new set of rules have to come into play in your household. Your teenager has an unprecedented level of independence, especially if they're among the first of their friends to get their license. Controlling that independence, however, is part of keeping your teen safe on the road. To ensure that they use their newly acquired skill appropriately, there are several things that you should consider.
Write Up a Contract
Detail exactly the behavior that you expect from your teenager in order for them to keep their driving privileges and put it in writing. Be sure that your expectations are clear up front. Take the time to think through a variety of scenarios up front. How, for example, will you handle a teenager who repeatedly breaks curfew? A teenager who isn't following safe driving laws? A teenager who skips school without your permission? Put all of that in writing ahead of time so that there are no surprises when you have to institute consequences later.
Don't Hand Over the Reins All At Once
When your teenager first starts driving, the world opens up before them--but that doesn't mean that they should grasp it all at once. At first, you might want to limit the streets on which your teenager can drive. For example, you might want to forbid solo highway driving or limit your teenager to familiar side streets until they're more confident in their driving abilities. While you've probably already spent plenty of miles in the passenger's seat while your teen practiced driving, that doesn't mean you're done coaching them through the process. If your child needs extra work on highway driving, driving in the rain, or another necessary skill, insist that you be in the car with them when they drive in those conditions.
Let Them Pay the Consequences
Accidents happen. Minor errors in judgment can have serious repercussions when your teenager is behind the wheel of a car. Sometimes, that's in the form of an accident. Other times, it's a ticket. Let your teenager know up front that if they do receive a ticket, they'll be responsible for paying it--and for any increase in insurance that results. While your accident policy might be more lax, your teen should bear at least a portion of the responsibility for that, as well. Knowing that they'll be responsible for the consequences, says New York attorney Zev Goldstein, helps to encourage positive driving behavior-- and that means that your teen will be safer.
Some offenses, on the other hand, should lead to immediate, strict consequences. Drinking and driving, for example, should result in an immediate confiscation of the car. Reckless driving behavior should also mean that the car is forfeited.
Tie the Car to Desired Behaviors
Do you want your teenager to maintain good grades in school? Keep their after-school job? Complete certain household chores? A car is a privilege, not a right. Let your teen know up front that there are certain behaviors that they will be expected to maintain if they want to keep those privileges.
Sending your teenager out on the road alone can be scary. By setting a few guidelines in place first, you can develop circumstances that will lead to a better driving record, safer behavior behind the wheel, and even more responsible behavior overall as your teen works to keep their driving privileges.