Why You Should Consider a Teen Driving Contract

how to write a teen driver contract
Teen drivers are bad drivers. At best, they’re inexperienced and easily distracted; at worst, they take risks such as speeding and driving while impaired. The tragic result is that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens.

Parents aren’t helpless, however. One proven way to help keep your novice driver safe is to follow the teen driver checklist and then require him or her to sign a teen driving contract. Here’s how to do it.

What is a teen driving contract?

In short, a teen driving contract or agreement is a document that clearly spells out the rules of the road for your new driver. It states basic driving behaviors that are expected (such as always wearing seatbelts) and forbidden (such as texting and driving). It may also outline a teen driver’s responsibility for maintaining the car, filling it with gas or paying for car insurance.

Parents should review this contract with their teenager and ensure she signs off on every point. While the agreement should reflect your own household rules, you don’t have to write it from scratch. Download an example from one of these sites:

Do teen driving contracts really work?

Parents may wonder if they really need to make their teen driver sign a formal document. Isn’t it enough to explain the rules before handing over the keys?

Not for most teens. In the excitement of getting their driver’s license, all your warnings fade out like so much white noise. You want to make it clear that you’re not just nagging them; that these rules are non-negotiable and have clear consequences.

When parents impose driving restrictions, teenagers typically drive more carefully and are involved in fewer crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Writing them out in a contract forces your teenage driver to read, understand and agree to each rule. It also makes the consequences clear, so your new driver can’t whine that he didn’t know he really had to be home by 11 p.m.

These parent-teen contracts go both ways, too. The SADD Contract for Life includes a pledge for the parent: that the parent will never drive while impaired and will provide her child with safe transportation home from an unsafe situation “and to defer discussions about that situation until a time when we can both have a discussion in a calm and caring manner.”

What should a teen driving contract include?

  • A commitment to obey local laws: Teen driving laws vary by state and the driver’s age, but may include limits on nighttime driving or the number of passengers.
  • Safe-driving rules: The NHTSA suggests five basic safety rules for teen drivers, such as no cell phone use, no speeding, no passengers, no alcohol and mandatory seatbelt use.
  • Household rules: What time should your teen driver be home? In what circumstances is she allowed to borrow the car?
  • A commitment to avoid risky situations: Ask your teen to pledge that he won’t get into a car driven by a drunk or drugged driver, and that he will speak up to prevent unsafe driving.
  • Financial responsibilities: Do you expect your teen to help pay for gas? What about car insurance or car maintenance?
  • Consequences: Rules are toothless unless the consequences are enforced. Explain both the legal consequences and the insurance consequences of violating the law, as well as the punishment your teen driver can expect to receive for breaking rules: losing driving privileges, for instance, or being grounded.

Can a teen driving contract save money on car insurance?

Car insurance for teens is painfully expensive. Your rates may as much as double after adding a teenage driver to your car insurance policy. Fortunately, insurers do offer discounts for teen drivers who demonstrate a commitment to safe driving. Liberty Mutual awards a discount for signing a driving contract. Other insurers, such as Safeco, go a step further, offering discounts on car insurance for teens when young drivers agree to electronic monitoring of their driving.

We think parents of teen drivers have enough on their minds without worrying about car insurance. Compare.com makes it easy to compare quotes for car insurance for teens, so you can avoid paying too much to cover your young driver.

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