D. Gilson is a writer and author of essays, poetry, and scholarship that explore the relationship between popular culture, literature, sexuality, and memoir. His latest book is Jesus Freak, with Will Stockton, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series. His other books include I Will Say This Exactly One Time and Crush. His first chapbook, Catch & Release, won the 2012 Robin Becker Prize from Seve...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has appeared on legaladvice.com, themanifest.com, and vice.com.

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Nov 5, 2019

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There are many driving habits that can be detrimental to your child’s safety. Student drivers are especially susceptible to distractions and poor choices on the road. Factors that don’t typically affect adult drivers, like night driving and passengers, frequently contribute to teen auto accidents. And bad driving habits can lead to far more than minor accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen drivers, which include drivers between 16 and 19, are three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than adult drivers aged 20 or older. In 2010, almost 3,000 teens died in motor vehicle accidents.

Why Teens are at Risk

In an age where technology gives students access to social media and constant communication with friends, it’s no wonder that students are so easily lured into the temptation of texting while driving. And that isn’t the only risk — students who drive with passengers can easily be distracted from paying attention to the road. Those who don’t wear seatbelts or perform routine maintenance on their vehicles are also at risk. With this in mind, it’s important for parents to set forth some driving guidelines for their students. Teenage driving contracts, which are written agreements between a parent and a student driver, can help parents set those rules on paper.

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Protecting Your Teen from an Accident

You may think your student driver knows what you expect them to do when behind the wheel, but unless you make your rules clear, it may be difficult for teens to keep them in the forefront of their minds. Driving contracts give students clear guidelines for expected driving conduct, and they also clarify the consequences for failing to follow the rules.
Driving contracts between parents and teens can cover a variety of topics, from distracted driving to drowsy driving. Parents are encouraged to consider some of the high risk factors of collisions and incorporate those into a contract. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want my teen to talk on the phone or texting while driving?
  • How do I want my teen to behave when he or she has a passenger?
  • What precautions should my teen take while driving at night?
  • Do I want my teen to wear a seatbelt while driving?
  • What types of routine maintenance should my teen perform?
  • What action should my teen take if he or she is under the influence?

For more inspiration about the different points your contract can cover, you can use example contracts. Many state websites, including Maine, North Carolina, and California, provide contract templates for parents who want to ensure that their teens are safe drivers.

Keep in mind that states have laws that can help you determine the limits on your student driver’s driving activities. For instance, all states consider driving under the influence to be illegal and many also have curfews in place for drivers under the age of 18. However, the exact stipulations may vary.

Once you have your contract written, sit down with your teenager and discuss each point. Make sure your teenager understands what he or she is signing and why. Teenagers who understand the contract and the consequences that result from violating the contract will be more likely to drive safely, which will decrease the probability of an accident and, in turn, keep your insurance rates low.