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Driver's License, Driving, and Use of the Family Car

Using Driving as an Incentive or a Motivator
Since driving seems to be vitally important to most teenagers, parents can use this as a motivator. This reward can actually be broken into four separate areas. Each area could be a goal, and certain behaviors could be required to attain each goal.

  • Taking the written test and obtaining a learner's permit. In most states, both a written test and an actual driving test must be successfully completed in order to obtain a driver's license. If the adolescent passes the written test, she can then obtain a learner's permit, which allows her to drive with a licensed adult in the car. Once she has a learner's permit, the next incentive could be employed.

  • Driving practice. The child's behavior during the week determines the amount of practice driving time she has on the weekend with her mother or father. The more cooperation she displays during the week, the longer the time she will have to practice driving.

  • Taking the driving test. Once the teen has gained some driving skill, and her behavior continues to indicate that she is responsible or mature enough to handle driving, then you can allow her to take the driving test. After passing the test, the child is issued a driver's license.

  • Using the car. Although the child has her driver's license, this does not necessarily mean she has unlimited use of the car. The amount of time that you allow her to use the car during the week or on the weekend could also be contingent on her behavior. If she continues to show responsible or mature behaviors in the areas that you specify, privileges could be extended. However, if the behaviors she improved to obtain the license start to diminish, you could restrict the privileges. Privileges to use the car would be granted if most of the work was completed in school, or they could be restricted or denied if the required effort was not shown.
Insurance, Gas, and Maintenance
Nowadays, a significant amount of cost is incurred if a parent decides to allow the child to use the family car. Insurance costs are high, especially if your adolescent is a male. Extra expenses for gas and maintenance are also likely to be incurred.

Whether or not the teenager should be responsible for these expenses is an individual decision and is dependent upon the family's financial situation and personal values, among other things. Some parents feel that a teenager's job is to go to school and do what he is supposed to do, and if that occurs they will be more than happy to pay for the extra insurance, gas, or repairs. Other parents feel that the child should earn the money himself. Some families cannot afford the higher cost of insurance or gasoline if a teenager drives; therefore, the child must earn the money to be able to drive.

Whether or not the family can afford the extra insurance, gas, and maintenance costs, a child should not receive the valuable privilege of driving the car in exchange for breathing. This privilege should be earned. It may not be that in order to drive, the child has to earn the actual amount of the insurance increase involved, but he may be required to show a certain level of cooperation in the home to obtain car privileges. Another child could be required to show adequate performance in school in order for his parents to continue to pay for the added insurance cost and gas.

Drinking and Driving
Too much emphasis cannot be placed on not driving when drinking. Parents can obtain valuable literature on this subject from M.A.D.D. (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), which could be shared with their teenager. Because of the seriousness of this situation and the potential danger involved, driving while under the influence of alcohol/drugs should carry a severe restriction of driving privileges.

Being able to earn a driver's license and drive are powerful motivators during adolescence. They can be used to the parent's positive advantage. Use of the car and driving privileges should be based on behavior, not age. Try to look for responsible and mature behaviors that indicate the child is capable enough to handle this privilege. If you feel that you cannot trust the child to drive because he is not showing appropriate behaviors in other areas, spell out exactly what he must do to earn this privilege. Monitor his behavior and give or take away the privilege consistently. He should know exactly what he has to do in order to obtain his driver's license or use the car. He should also know what he must or must not do in order to be restricted from these privileges.

More on: Teen Driving


From Keys to Parenting Your Teenager by Don Fontenelle, Ph.D. Copyright 2000 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

Buy the book at Barron's.

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