How to set rules for my teenage driver

On the Road 3 min read

The day a teen gets their license can be exciting and scary for both teens and parents. Setting some clear rules for teenage drivers (and defining appropriate consequences) can help your teen drive more safely and put your mind at ease. Establishing rules for teen drivers can also be a moment to build trust and bonds as a family.

How to discuss car rules for teenage drivers with your teen

Setting rules for teenage drivers is important regardless of how you approach it. However, studies find that the way you discuss those rules makes a difference when keeping teen drivers safe on the road. A 2009 study divided parents of teen drivers into groups based on the household’s parenting style and assessed outcomes. The results were clear: houses with more involved parents (high rules/monitoring) reported fewer crash risks. They also reported less likelihood of driving when intoxicated and using a cell phone while driving. The study also showed that a “high rules/monitoring, high support” approach produced the best results.

Setting car rules for teenage drivers should involve a frank discussion about the risks and responsibilities as you establish some ground rules about driving. Talking to your young driver about insurance rates for teen drivers and how tickets impact car insurance rates is also a good idea. Some experts recommend writing out expectations, rules, and consequences for driving and having everyone in the family commit to the document in writing. Defining expectations creates an opportunity to treat your child more like an equal, especially if you commit to stopping bad driving habits and focus on making good driving habits and behavior a family priority.

Recommended rules for teenager drivers

Set up your own graduated licensing system

Most states have a graduated licensing system that imposes stricter limits on new drivers and relaxes them slowly as a driver gains experience. Some states limit a new driver’s ability to drive at night and drive with passengers for the first six months. This graduated system has been shown effective. Parents’ rules for new drivers can follow the same approach, with a stricter set of requirements until your teen demonstrates competence and has time to practice driving and build skills behind the wheel.

Limit passengers

Parents setting rules for teenage drivers may choose to limit the passengers in their child’s car by age, number, or both. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that teen drivers crash more often the more passengers they have, especially if those passengers are teenagers. Consider a “no teen passengers” rule until you feel comfortable with your child’s driving.

Limit driving hours

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), teen drivers suffer four times as many fatal crashes per mile driven at night than during the day. Consider a driving curfew as a rule for your teenage driver until they have more experience with driving at night.

Define a no cellphone rule

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving seriously contributes to crashes and fatalities. Make it clear that they shouldn’t be using their phone while driving and establish clear consequences for distracted driving.

Define clear rules around alcohol and drug use

Driving under the influence should be off-limits without question. Set clear consequences for this behavior as part of your rules for your teenage driver. Legal penalties for teens who get a DUI may already include fines, jail time, or loss of their license, depending on the circumstances and jurisdiction where it occurs.

Aligning with the “high support” approach, you might consider making it clear that you’ll come to get them if they need a designated driver. That doesn’t mean there won’t be consequences for underage drinking, but giving them an alternative can help them avoid the temptation to drive drunk and can prevent drunk driving.

Use monitoring apps

Some parents may consider using a monitoring app to track a child’s speed and other driving habits (including phone use while driving). There are apps with different feature sets depending on what kind of driver your child is and how they respond to the idea of monitoring. Discuss this possibility with your teen before implementing it as part of your teenage driving rules to avoid betraying their trust. Consider using it as an incentive for more freedom. You could give them a later curfew or relax restrictions more quickly if they agree to monitor their driving.

How to set consequences for breaking teen driving rules

The consequences you set for breaking your teenage driver rules are up to you. They’ll depend on factors like your child’s values and personality, the family structure, and more. Whatever consequences for breaking teen driving rules you choose, be consistent. Outline them clearly in your new driver contract and stick to it. You may want to react more strongly if you’re angry, frustrated, or sad about what happened. Following your agreement can show your teen that you’re fair and encourage them to stick to your agreed-upon terms in the future.

Setting up logical consequences that fit the infraction can help things seem fair, too. Some examples of consequences include the loss of driving privileges or phone use for a time if the teen was texting while driving. Additional consequences include the teen taking financial responsibility for the costs they incur if they get into an accident.

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