TeenSafe’s Teen Driver Contract For Parents of New Drivers
Distracted driving killed 3,477 people in 2015, according to the Distracted Driving 2015 report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.. While distracted driving may encompass numerous distractions—like changing a radio station, turning to talk to a friend or even fixing hair or makeup—cell phone use remains one of the most prominent distractions that drivers face today. In 2015, 14 percent of fatal distracted driving crashes among teen drivers ages 15-19 involved a cell phone.
For newly licensed drivers—especially teens—the cell phone can be a dangerous addition within a vehicle. Most teens rely on their phones for constant contact with friends, social media updates and even to utilize maps and GPS functions. However, a ding indicating a new social media message or the lure of sending a quick text may be the difference between life and death.
Sometimes the pull of the smartphone’s virtual tether is too much for teen drivers to resist. Parents, however, have the power to make the difference and ensure that the constant allure of the phone isn’t a fatal mistake. All parents should insist that teens sign and adhere to a cell phone contract that outlines a teen’s rights and responsibilities of using and owning a cell phone. However, once a teen is licensed to drive, this cell phone contract should develop into a driving contract. And no detail should be spared.
Rules of the Road
Before a teen begins to drive solo, they need to understand the rights and rules of the road. They also must know what documentation they need to have in the car in case of a traffic violation or they get into an accident. Make sure young drivers know that they must always have their driver’s license with them. Proof of insurance and registrations also should be stored safely in the car, ideally in the glove compartment.
Most teens also should know what do in case of an emergency or an involvement in an accident. They must know to never leave the scene of an accident and to never admit fault on the scene. If your insurance company provides roadside assistance in case of a flat tire or other issue, teens should have a card with the emergency number.
Road rage also is a much-too-common road hazard. If your young driver feels threatened by another driver, encourage them to drive somewhere safe like a busy business or a local police station. They may also pull over and dial 911. Teens should never confront another driver or engage in aggressive behaviors while driving.
The Contract Checklist: Rules of the Road
- My license will always be kept in a wallet or handbag while driving.
- My vehicle’s insurance cards and vehicle registration will be stored in the glove compartment.
- I understand that I must not leave the scene of an accident or admit fault at the scene.
- I know the contact information of roadside assistance if there is a vehicle emergency (flat tire, dead battery, etc.).
- I will never engage in dangerous or violent behavior (aka road rage) while behind the wheel.
- I understand that if I feel threatened by another driver, then I should drive to a local police department or a busy business.
- I understand that if I fail to follow the rules of the road or receive a ticketed violation because of any reckless behaviors behind the wheel, my driving privilege may be revoked.
Driving is a privilege not a right. New drivers should understand that you—or the law—can revoke their license or their car keys if they don’t follow the rules of their driving contract. So what should be in that contract?
Ideally, parents should include the above “Rules of the Road” in checklist form. Document all items that should be in the car in case of emergency. And include consequences for any road rage behaviors or aggressive driving (that results in a ticket).
Of course, driver’s safety also needs to be detailed in the contract. Stipulate the promises that teens must make for their driving privilege: always wear a seatbelt, obey all traffic laws and speed limits, to never pick up a hitchhiker, and to always keep eyes on the road.
Your teen’s driving contract also should include rules about drugs and alcohol. Teens must understand they can never drink and drive or be a passenger in a car if the driver has had drugs or alcohol. No alcohol or drugs should ever be allowed in the car EVER.
The Contract Checklist: Driver Safety
- I will always wear my seatbelt while driving (or as a passenger).
- I promise to never give a hitchhiker a ride.
- I promise to obey all traffic laws and speed limitations.
- I will never drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, nor will I ride as a passenger with anyone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- I promise to never allow drugs or alcohol in the car…EVER!
Technology and Driving
All driving contracts also should include a section that discusses technology use while driving. Teens should never text and drive or try to talk on a cell phone while behind the wheel. Earbuds or other headphones also should never be used and the radio should remain at a reasonable volume.
For parents who are concerned that their teen’s cell phone will provide too much temptation, include a monitoring provision in the driving contract. Monitoring software can be used to lock down his/her phone while they are mobile. For iPhones, iOS offers the Do Not Disturb While Driving function, which disables the phone and sends a message to anyone who calls or sends a message that the user is driving or otherwise occupied.
The Contract Checklist: Technology on the Road
- I promise to never use my cell phone while driving (e.g. no texting, talking, surfing the internet or photos)
- I promise to refrain from using any headphones that will impede my ability to hear warning sirens or other vehicles around me.
- I will listen to the radio at a volume that will not distract me from driving or mask warning sirens.
- I understand that if I do not follow these rules that my phone may be monitored with software that disables my phone while I am driving.
Obtaining a driver’s license is a huge milestone for many teens. A license means independence and freedom. However, driving is a privilege that can be revoked. Teens must understand that the privilege of driving comes with responsibilities. Every time they sit behind the wheel, they become responsible for not just their own life but the lives of everyone else on the road. A text message or answering a quick phone call while driving can change a teen’s life forever…or end it completely.