Road Rules for Teen Drivers
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, teenage drivers have the highest death rates per mile driven among all age groups, followed by elderly drivers and young adult males. In addition, most studies of motor vehicle crashes involving young people focus on drivers. However, much of the problem involves young people traveling as passengers.
Jeff had the days counted from his 12th birthday. Two years before Steve turned 16, he knew his birthday was going to fall on a Sunday, which meant he would have to wait one additional day to get his driver's license. Although I did not have the days counted, I knew the event would come sooner rather than later, and I also knew I would never be fully prepared.
The idea that my sons would be driving two-ton vehicles on highways where people had fatal accidents was mind-numbing. Whenever I heard about an accident, especially an accident with fatalities and especially when they involved teens, I found myself hyperventilating and hoping the state I live in would change the driver's age before my sons reached it.
They didn't. They talk about it a lot, but they have never actually done anything about it.
Nevertheless, my husband and I decided that we would rather have our sons driving than have them as passengers in another teen's vehicle. We knew our sons were responsible. They got good grades and could be trusted. We did not know about their friends. Unless our sons lost that trust, I knew they would be driving at the earliest legal driving age.
There are parents I know who withhold the driving privilege with their own children for a variety of reasons. My husband and I did not feel that was necessary. However, we wanted to reinforce in as many ways as possible that driving is a privilege and not a right, and that the driving privilege can be taken away.
I also knew that, for my own peace of mind, I would have to set guidelines before they were driving, and there could be no deviation from the rules. Thus, I created my set of "road rules," which would let me rest a little easier when my sons were out in traffic. The following are the rules which have helped me relax a bit and have kept my hair from turning completely gray – so far:
- The car is not for "joy riding." If you break this rule even one time, the "joy" of driving will be so far off in the distance that even the best telescope with wide angle and telephoto lenses won't be able to get a picture of it.
- "See this credit card with your name on it, my son whom I love? It is my peace-of-mind credit card. It has a small credit limit on it. It is for emergencies only. You can define an emergency as the car breaking down or your boss being out of the country on pay day. An emergency is not, "I really had to have that CD." The credit card is not for purchasing gasoline unless you reimburse me the moment you get home. In addition, child who was ripped from my loins, if there is a balance on the credit card, it better be car-related. Oh yes, and you're paying it. And you will pay it completely before you have permission to drive again.
- This is a five-passenger vehicle. There are five seat belts for five passengers. Do the math. And when you drive Dad's pickup, the back of the truck is not for passengers. That includes your best friend's dog.
- Curfews are to be strictly adhered to. Call if an emergency keeps you out past your curfew. "Allison was mad at me and we had to work it out" is not one of those emergencies.
- You have a cell phone. Keep it with you, and keep it charged. Do not use it when you drive. Pull off the road to use it. Keep us informed of where you are, and if your plans change, let us know. We will do the same for you.
- Fighting with your brother? You punched him? In the stomach? And then he tripped you? Gee, I don't know any adults who drive cars who still do that. Do you?
- You have such a cool bedroom, and there are so many great things in it. It's a good thing it doesn't look like a pigsty. I don't know a single pig that has a driver's license.
- You want a car of your own? Now tell me one more time about why you must sleep until noon instead of getting a part-time job. I always forget your reasons. They are so creative. (We will negotiate the purchase of a vehicle when you are working – not before. And, in case you forget, school work comes first.)
- Tell me one more time why you got that "D" in Algebra? There is something wrong with that algebraic equation when it comes to driving.
- You wouldn't break your poor mother's heart by doing one of those illegal things. Good. I didn't think you would.
- Notice my light is still on, Honey? That's because I worry, even though you are a mature, levelheaded, young adult. It's not that I don't trust you. It's all the other nuts out there on the road that I don't trust.
- No racing, practical jokes or giving your girlfriend driving lessons. Let your girlfriend's parents pay for driving lessons just like we did.
- He who drives, contributes. If you can't afford gas money for some unexplainable reason, you can contribute in the category of Hard Labor. I am a great taskmaster. Our lawn is very long and the house needs a coat of paint. The gutters must be cleaned out occasionally, and that tree in the backyard needs trimming.
- A ticket for speeding? Hand over the keys.
- If you have a vehicle of your own, it is your responsibility to keep it in good shape. Oil changes, tire rotations and lube jobs are up to you. (We'll remind you if you forget.)
- Don't leave me with an almost empty tank.
- No one likes a dirty vehicle – inside and outside – especially your parents.
- Are you tired? If you're tired, I don't want you behind the wheel. Call me – for any reason – and I will come and get you. And I won't ask questions. That's a promise.
- You know how we always tell you how proud you make us when you do things well? Good. Remember that.
- There are no exceptions to any of these rules.