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The Driving Contract

Posted by on December 22, 2013

When I turned sixteen and got my license our family had two cars: the family car and the one my dad took to work. I was allowed to drive either of them, provided I had a good enough reason and it wasn’t inconveniencing someone else. That was pretty much the situation with most of my friends too. Hardly anyone my age had their own car. The few who did made the most of it, while the rest of us “made do.”

I did my best to compensate for this lack of a vehicle to call my own by doing things to customize my parent’s cars. Sometimes my efforts were appreciated, and sometimes not so much. One of the biggest handicaps of my dad’s commuter car was that it didn’t have a radio. It wasn’t broken or anything, it just never had one. That seems odd now in an age of iPod inputs and satellite radios, but back then even cassette tape players were rare in cars. Mostly it was just AM/FM radios with mechanical buttons to select the stations. In my circles your “coolness” depended a lot on which stations you had assigned to those buttons. Assigning the leftmost button to the edgy rock station was a sure sign that you knew what was happening.

Driving a car that didn’t even have a radio made it a little tough to prove much of anything.

So, I came up with a plan. My solution was to get a radio installed in my dad’s car as a present for him. I just hated that he had to commute through Pentagon traffic every day without the benefit of all those great traffic reports and news stations! The fact that the same radio would restore me to my rightful place among the approved was pure coincidence of course! :-) It was a true “win-win” situation.

Installing a chrome foot on my mom’s accelerator pedal didn’t go over quite as well, but all-in-all my folks were fairly tolerant of my attempts to make the cars we drove more socially acceptable. Eventually I was allowed to take the car with the new radio to college with me, but it wasn’t until I started my first job in the army that I finally bought a car of my own. The long term effect of this whole experience was a promise to myself that if I ever had any boys, I was going to figure out a way that they could have something of their own to drive.

All these years later, I’m proud to say that I have been able to do exactly that. Each of our boys has had a vehicle to drive from the time they turned 16. The cars weren’t new. In fact they’ve mostly been our older family cars (like the big red van that Tuck had to drive for a while, affectionately known as the “BRV”) but when you’re 16 and holding a fresh license in your hands, that doesn’t matter much. We made each of the boys pay $100/month for a year in order to “buy” the car. That was to give them some practice paying bills and managing their money. We eventually used that money to buy them a laptop for college. They also had to pay for all their own gas and half of what it cost us to add them to our insurance.

Having your own car is a big responsibility. We wanted to make sure everyone was clear on the standards we expected when they drove, and what the consequences would be for not meeting them, so we looked around on the internet for a driving contract. Nothing seemed quite right, so we made up our own. Feel free to use it, modify it, and make it your own.

Driving Contract

Conditions for Driving

1. Driving one of the family cars is a privilege, not a right. You are granted this privilege based on the fact that you have demonstrated good judgment in the past, and in the hope that you will continue to do so in the future. Should you demonstrate that our trust in your good judgment is misplaced, the privilege will be removed. Demonstrations of good judgment include (but are not limited to):

  • Always telling us where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
  • Always going where you said you were going and being back when you said you would be back.
  • Calling us beforehand for permission when you would like to deviate from the approved routes, destinations, or times. Understand that calling us does not guarantee approval. Should you not be able to get in touch with us, remember that your driving privilege hinges on your demonstration of good judgment.
  • Remember that there’s always someone watching.

2. The car you will be driving is not yours. We may refer to it as “your car” but that is purely for convenience when speaking about it. You may not lend it to others, or allow others to drive it. Making modifications to this car, even if you’re paying for them, is not permitted unless you have first cleared them with the owners. You are encouraged however, to consider ways to improve the car’s looks, operation, and accessories. Just ask before you do anything.

3. You are required to maintain the car on a regular basis. Normal maintenance includes things like checking the tire pressure and fluid levels on a regular basis, and changing the oil periodically. If something on the car becomes inoperative as a result of your not maintaining it, you will be required to pay for the necessary repairs. Other malfunctions or repairs (those not caused by negligence) will probably be taken car of by the owners. This includes things like tires, brakes, etc. Should “your” car become inoperative, you should not expect that our lives will change to accommodate taking you places on your schedule or according to your plans. Careful planning and bending over backwards in consideration for others will go a long way towards getting you the occasional ride, however.

4. The car you will be driving is the one you’ll be using for most everything. Requests to use the “nice car” for dates or other special events will generally be viewed with disdain. You have a car; use it. If you don’t like the way it looks, fix it up. It is possible that out of the generosity of our hearts, we may (at our discretion) offer the use of one of the other cars, but you shouldn’t count on it.

5. You are responsible for the cost of gasoline. Assertions that you deserve some recompense for having taken your brothers where they needed to go will generally be viewed as whining. Remember that you have a car to use. Taking your brothers places is a small price to pay for having a car. With that said we might, on occasion, at our discretion, provide a bit of gas money.

Rules for Driving

1. Obey the traffic laws. All of them, even if they’re inconvenient or you don’t think they make sense. Remember that you are at the controls of a ton of jagged metal and glass that can kill in an instant. Remember also that there are multitudes of other drivers out there who are driving equally deadly weapons. Many of them are not competent to do so,…and all of them are looking for an opportunity to kill you. Be alert. Be aware.

  • “I’m sorry” or “I didn’t think it would happen” are exceedingly lame responses to horrible situations. Consider the “what ifs” carefully before you get into bad situations.
  • Sometimes being in the right is not enough. Doing something stupid to prove a point almost always ends badly.
  • Remember that there’s always someone watching.

2. If you get a ticket, you have apparently demonstrated poor enough judgment that law enforcement has felt the need to intervene. Keep your hands in plain sight, be respectful, take it like a man, and we’ll deal with the consequences when you get home.

3. Driving Under the Influence:

  • Should we find out that you have driven under the influence of anything, the car will be immediately sold.
  • Should you be under the influence of anything and not be able to figure out how to get home, call us and we’ll come get you. This will be viewed as good judgment in the face of a bad situation (see #1), and the car will probably not be immediately sold. The fact that you were in that situation in the first place will be dealt with separately.
  • Never, ever, ever ride in a vehicle that is being driven by someone else who is under the influence of anything.
  • Do not transport others who are under the influence of anything,…unless you have fully informed us of the details beforehand. Should you not be able to get in touch with us, you will have to use your judgment,…and we’ll review the details afterwards. Just remember that your driving privileges hinge on the notion that you exercise good judgment.
  • While “under the influence” generally refers to things like drugs and alcohol, you should also not drive if you are very angry, or in any other emotional state which might cause you to do something that you might regret later.
  • Remember that there’s always someone watching.

4.  Driving Distractions. While driving, you will keep your eyes on the road at all times, and will not use your cell phone, change a CD, read a map, fish in the glove compartment for your wallet, or engage in any other behavior not specified here that prevents you from devoting your full attention to the road.

  • Pointing out that your parents have done, or are doing these things is considered bad form. Between them, they have almost fifty years and hundreds of thousands of miles of driving experience and are far better equipped to handle small distractions. When you have driven for a minimum of 5000 miles, these rules may be relaxed. Maybe.
  • Should you receive a call while you are driving, find a safe place to pull off the road and return the call.  After you have the experience gained by driving 5000 total miles/or for 6 months we might consider lifting this restriction.
  • Remember that there’s always someone watching.

Passengers.  For a period of six months you will not be allowed to carry passengers. On occasion we may lift this restriction so you can transport your brothers when it is convenient for us. Remember that there’s always someone watching.


We, your parents, on this day, (_______________), do grant you, (_________________________), access to a vehicle as long as you obey all stipulations noted above. 

______________________________  Parent _____________________________  Parent

I have read the above agreement and agree to the stipulations.

_________________________________  Teen-ager      Signed on (date)________________.


originally published 12/19/11| next post The Internet

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