A Parent/Teen Agreement is a written document that defines restrictions, privileges, rules and consequences. It’s a great tool for parents and teens to clearly understand what the expectations are and how they will be enforced, and it sets consequences for noncompliance. Parents can use the agreement to set parameters during the first six to 12 months of full licensure – when teen crashes are at their highest.
A written agreement sets clear expectations from the start. It helps to ensure no one forgets what was discussed.
It’s important to remember that crashes are typically a combination of factors, especially for teens. A crash could occur while driving at night with multiple passengers with a driver who is using a cell phone. Keep this in mind as you work through your agreement. It’s also important to consider your state’s GDL law. If your state has a 10:00 p.m. curfew and your agreement states 11:00 p.m., your teen will be driving on an invalid driver license and could be ticketed if pulled over.
When talking with your teen about the agreement, be sure to:
- Discuss the responsibilities that come with driving and the expenses that can be incurred in the event of a crash – tickets, expensive car repairs, increases in car insurance, cost from injuries – perhaps life-long injuries, etc. Be clear that the best way to avoid those costly expenses is to adhere to the agreement.
- Explain to your teen that the quickest way to receive full driving privileges is to follow the agreement – breaking it means a delay in receiving full driving privileges.
- Help your teen understand that these restrictions are in place for his/her safety. While your teen may not like or agree with the nighttime driving and passenger restrictions be clear that this is just for a short period of time.
- Include personal stories. Personal stories have a profound way of changing behaviors and can be a great tool for starting conversations. Share some of the personal stories on our blog and discuss those stories with your teen. Ask your teen if he would understand how devastated you would be if something ever happened to him. Share how his safety is paramount to all else.
- Set clear consequences. Give examples so everyone understands what is possible if the rules are broken.
At some point you’ll get asked to grant more privileges. Don’t grant too many at one time. Remember, driving is a new skill for your teen and it takes time to build those skills.
These restrictions help your teen gain experience while minimizing crash risk. Combinations of privileges, such as driving at nighttime with passengers are the most dangerous for your teen driver. So, start slowly. Keep other factors in mind too – allowing your teen to have passengers to go to a big game at the school or prom when the temptation to indulge in other risky driving behaviors is greatest.
As parents, we spend so much time trying to protect our children and keep them safe while they grow. We need to continue protecting them as they move into the most dangerous period of their youth.