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Published: April 14, 2022Last updated: November 22, 2022

Parent-Teen Driving Contracts Guide

When state laws aren’t enough

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Sure, your state has Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws that may restrict your teen driver’s curfew, passengers, and supervision. But depending on which state you live in, these laws may not be enough to keep your child safe. In Arizona, for instance, there is no driving curfew or restrictions on passengers, meaning that as soon as a teen driver gets their learner’s permit at age 15-and-a-half, they can drive all night with as many teenage passengers as they want. This may be legal, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

Many parents sign driving contracts with their teens to establish safer driving practices and supplement state laws. This article will define what a parent-teen driving contract is, explain how it can benefit your teen driver, and provide example contracts you can print out and sign today.

Video Breakdown

Amanda Mushro tells you everything you need to know about how a parent-teen contract can make your child a safer driver.

What Are Parent-Teen Driving Contracts?

graphic of two people shaking hands in front of a large contract
Parent-teen driving contracts are written, non-legally binding agreements between parents and their teenage children. By signing the contract, teens promise they will follow certain safety practices while driving. Contracts could include stipulations on driving hours, supervision, distracted driving, passengers, and so on.

Parent-Teen Driving Contracts

Why Should I Use a Parent-Teen Driving Agreement?

Insufficient State Driving Rules

Did you know 17 states lack driving curfews for teens with their learner’s permits? In the same vein, 20 states have no restrictions on passengers, meaning your teen can legally drive with their most distracting friends. That’s why many parents have taken matters into their own hands, signing written agreements with their teens to restrict their driving behaviors. Why is creating your own teen driving laws for your kids necessary? Read on to find out.

High Crash Rates

Teens have higher crash rates than any other age group due to their lack of driving experience, according to 2020 data from the National Safety Council.

Age range Rate of fatal crashes per 100,000 licensed drivers in 2020 Rate of all types of crashes per 100,000 licensed drivers in 2020
16-19 44 22,103
20-24 39 15,876
25-34 34 11,941
35-44 26 9,062
45-54 23 7,776
55-64 20 6,187
65-74 14 4,383
75 and older 24 3,369

Given their high rates of crashes and fatal crashes in particular, teens have expensive auto insurance costs, which will only go up if they get into an accident.

Better Communication and Attitudes

However, implementing a driving contract with your teen can result in “better communication, more restrictions, and safer parent and teenager attitudes,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Although there isn’t firm evidence proving parent-teen driving contracts improve driver safety and decrease traffic violations and crashes, improved communication is never a bad thing.

What a Parent-Teen Driving Contract Includes

Curfews

The fatal crash rate for drivers 16 to 19 is four times as high at night versus during the day.1 Drivers ages 16 and 17 are more at risk of getting into a crash at night than any other age group, according to AAP data. See if your state’s curfew is sufficient if it has one. If it isn’t sufficient or doesn’t exist, include your own curfew in your parent-teen driving contract.

Passengers Limits

When a teen is driving with passengers in the car, they are often distracted, making the situation an even higher risk.2 In fact, in 15 percent of teen distracted-driving cases, the driver was interacting with another passenger, according to an AAA study. Other teenagers are the most distracting passengers, so set passenger limits you are comfortable with.

Distracted-Driving Guidelines

Aside from restricting other passengers, many parents also ban their teens from using any electronic devices while driving, even hands-free devices.

Distracted driving is an issue for all drivers, but it’s a problem for teenagers in particular. Texting and driving is tempting for teen drivers, especially after they graduate from their learner’s permits and no longer require adult supervision while driving. Though only 16 percent of teens ages 14 and 15 texted or emailed while driving in 2019, that number rose to 60 percent for 18-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

CheckDID YOU KNOW?

Drivers ages 15 to 20 are 33 percent more likely than any other age group to be involved in distracted driving-related fatal crashes, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

DUI Pledge

Your teen is legally not allowed to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but you can have them pledge sobriety in the contract anyway. Compared to sober drivers ages 16 to 20, drivers in that age range with blood alcohol content of 0.05 to 0.079 percent are 12 times more likely to be killed in single-vehicle crashes.3

Seat Belt Use

graphic of a man and woman standing in front of a car
Not all states require seat belt use in every seat, even for those under 18. Also, some seat belt laws are under secondary enforcement, meaning police can only stop your teen for not wearing a seat belt if they’re committing another traffic violation.

Unfortunately, seat belt use among ages 16 to 24 is lower than in any other age group. In 2008, only 8 out of 10 young adults ages 16 to 24 wore seat belts, compared with 84 percent of those ages 25 and older.

Age range Percentage using seat belts in 2007 Percentage using seat belts in 2008 Year-over-year difference Difference from national average in 2008
8-15 82% 83% 1% 0%
16-24 77% 80% 4% -3%
25-69 83% 84% 1% 1%
70 and older 88% 84% -5% 1%

Stipulating seat belt use for your teenager could save them from injuries or even death. CDC data shows that seat belt use in the front passenger seat reduces the risk of critical injuries by 50 percent and death by 45 percent.

Sample Parent-Teen Driving Contracts

  • National Safety Council4
  • AAA5
  • American Academy of Pediatrics (appendix 2)6
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention7

CheckDIY

You can create your own parent-teen driving contract using a template from the University of Michigan’s Injury Prevention Center.8

Max Benz, owner of Remote Canteen9 and father of a teenage driver, says his parent-teen driving contract “stipulates that our 17-year-old must obey all traffic laws, avoid using cell phones while driving, and refrain from driving with passengers under the age of 18.”

Of course, these agreements have their limits, Benz admits. “While parent-teenager driving contracts can be helpful in promoting safe driving habits, it is important to note that they are not legally binding. In other words, if our 17-year-old breaks the rules of the contract, of course, we don’t take legal action against him.”

CheckTIP

Reduce the driving restrictions in your contract as your teen gains experience and moves up the GDL ladder.

Conclusion

To learn more about keeping your teen driver safe, visit our teen driver hub, where we have all of the information you and your teen need to be accident-free. Not only will your child thank you, but your wallet will too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a 17-year-old drive minors around?

Whether or not a 17-year-old can drive minors around depends on the state they are driving in, what stage their license is in (learner’s permit, intermediate license, or unrestricted license), if the minor is an immediate family member, and if supervision is present. If they have an unrestricted license, they are allowed to drive minors around.

If they only have a learner’s permit, their ability to drive minor passengers is restricted. Many states only allow minors to ride along if they are immediate family members or if a supervising adult is present. Check your state’s laws to find out if your teen can drive a minor based on their license type.

How many teens ages 13 to 19 are killed every year in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S.?

Nearly 2,400 teens ages 13 to 19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. in 2019.

Can teenagers be good drivers?

Teenagers can be good drivers. However, they are more likely than any other age group to be involved in any type of crash, particularly fatal crashes, due to their lack of driving experience.

Can you drive alone at 16 in New York?

No, 16-year-olds with learner’s permits cannot drive alone in New York. They must be accompanied by a licensed driver 21 or older, according to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.

Citations

  1. Teenagers. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. (2021, May
    https://www.iihs.org/topics/teenagers

  2. Estimating the Effect of Passengers in Fatal and Non-fatal Crashes Involving Teen Drivers. Transportation Research Board. (2019).
    https://trid.trb.org/view/1572736

  3. Alcohol-related risk of driver fatalities: an update using 2007 data. National Library of Medicine. (2012, May).
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22456239/

  4. NEW DRIVER DEAL. National Safety Council.
    https://nsccdn.azureedge.net/nsc.org/media/site-media/docs/safe-driving/driveithome/new-driver-deal.pdf?utm_source=sfmc&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=DIHNewDriverDealDownload&utm_content=

  5. Driving Contracts. AAA.
    http://www.aaa.com/AAA/057/static/safety/Parent-Teen.DrivingContracts.pdf

  6. The Teen Driver. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2006, Dec.)
    https://www.ncsl.org/documents/transportation/AAPteendriver.pdf

  7. Parent-Teen Driving Agreement. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, May 24).
    https://www.cdc.gov/parentsarethekey/agreement/index.html

  8. REGISTER TO START WITH CHECKPOINTS. University of Michigan.
    https://youngdriverparenting.org/sign-up/

  9. Gesunde Ernährung im Home-Office. Remote Canteen.
    https://remotecanteen.com/