This is my oldest son, Chandler, when he passed his driver’s test in May. Do you think he was excited? Ha ha. Yes, he was. But, as usual, he propelled us into yet another sea of uncharted waters as parents when he started driving on his own. If you have already or will soon experience this new phase, I am sure you can relate. In the spirit of helping those who are about to get there for the first time, here are some things that we learned and that have worked for us in these first few months.
Know the state laws. In Minnesota, there are rules about how many people can be in the car, times when a new driver cannot drive, use of cell phone and more. As a parent, I feel like these laws are good ones and it helped me establish rules that I would have wanted to establish for my new driver anyway. Knowing that his other friends have the same rules makes it easier for him to comply. Search “new driver rules” along with your state to find your state’s rules.
Planning for another car. With four kids in activities, we are actually quite happy to have another driver in the house. Even if he just takes himself to and from practice, it saves us gas (making round trips twice) and time for him to have and use his own vehicle. We opted for a well maintained 1991 Jeep Cherokee that cost us about $1,500. We lucked out in how easily we found the vehicle and we purchased it a few months before it was needed so our son could practice driving in it under our supervision. From what I hear, good quality cars in that lower price range are tough to come by, so you will want to save up and start looking before you absolutely need to have the vehicle, or you could feel forced to spend more than you planned.
The car is ours. In our situation, it has worked really well for us to own the car. We cover the cost of repairs and the basic insurance (the cost before our son was added to the policy) and our son pays for the cost to insure him (hello, incentive to up the grades for the discount!) and his gas. We have no problem saying he cannot use the car (say, if he is not behaving) and we don’t have the “it’s my car, I paid for it” battle on our hands. Plus, paying for gas and insurance is quite expensive for a 16 year old who mainly works just summers. He has enough money management lessons to learn without the added pressure of car repairs at this point. Also, our daughter will turn 16 in 18 months, and then she will have equal access to the vehicle and we will not need to buy another one. That will be a good time for Chandler to consider buying his own car, and gives him time to save while he can work.
Consequences Stink. This is a no-brainer, really. Yes, he did indeed get a speeding ticket. The cop, bless his heart, made Chandler call us and explain what happened (we told him to come straight home) and then the cop told him about all the kids that don’t make it home alive due to reckless driving and told him to be safe. What a great guy – I wish I could thank him! It’s one of those life lessons – those teens think they are invincible and you just pray they figure out that they are not before it is too late. Even if he does not realize that, paying the $126 fine makes him think twice about speeding. Now is as good a time as any to reinforce that parents cannot always swoop in to save the day – you have to suffer your own consequences for not following the rules. Painful to watch, but hopefully it prevents something far worse.
Watch the News. It just breaks my heart every time I hear of a horrific car accident. It really does – how devastating for all of those families. My husband is a fire fighter, so he sees it even more in depth than I do. When those stories hit, we have our teenager watch the news stories with us and we talk about what happened, ask them how they think the driver feels (sadly, it is not uncommon for passengers to be killed but for the driver to live) and how the families must feel. I just pray that they take it to heart.
Curfew. This is not necessarily only applicable to driving, but now that he can drive, our son is out a lot more often and in typical teenage fashion, wants to be out late. Freedom!!! But, not so fast. We set the time (one for weeknights and one for weekends) that work for us and what seems reasonable given what our friends do, what we are comfortable with, what the law says, etc. With three other kids, ages 5-14 and a busy life, I don’t always want to stay up that late. My day starts early. We use this fantastic tip from my friend: We set our phone alarm in the bathroom by our bedroom. Chandler has to get home and turn the alarm off before it goes off, or else. No calling at the last minute, begging for more time. Just get home. It works beautifully and if the alarm goes off, then I will know it is time to get up and worry. And, I won’t sleep through his curfew. Of course, Chandler knows that in an emergency, he should call and wake us, be he also knows that it had better be important. 8-)
Love Them. When Chandler leaves, I give him a hug and remind him that I love him and want him home safe. I remind him that he can only have one passenger, I ask him about his plans, remind him not to use his cell phone, etc. Can they ever hear any of those things too much?
I’d love to hear from any of you that have more experience in this area! What worked, what didn’t? Any tips out there?