Its summer time and many things are reopening and many teenagers are looking forward to spending time hanging out with their friends.  Many teenagers want to drive around town or go to Santa Cruz with their friends.  Many parents worry about their teenagers driving other teenagers around and they worry about what the teenagers may be doing before driving.  Parents worry about teens drinking and driving and driving late at night because typically teenagers still have a great deal to learn about driving.  Parents have a right to be concerned because most motor vehicle accidents tend to involve teenagers (CDC).  In other words, teenagers have the most car accidents.  Therefore, parents worry about how their teenagers drive, who they are driving with and what they are doing before they are driving.

This is the reason that I have always stressed behavior contracts with teenagers.  It gives parents a chance to discuss their concerns with their teenagers and to also set limits regarding appropriate behavior.  No parent wants their teenager to fail school or to get hurt while out with friends.  Since the prefrontal cortex of a teenager’s brain is not fully developed, at times they have difficulties making appropriate decisions.  Again they may physically look like an adult, but mentally they are still very impulsive and at times act more like 5th graders.  This is why contracts can help teenagers understand where their limits are and what will happen at home if they violate the limits.

Besides a contract regarding school and homework, a contract regarding driving is very important.  Due to the new laws some teenagers are not driving at 16 years old and waiting until they are 18 years old.  When they are 18, many of the new laws do not apply to them.  However, whether they are 16 or 18 years old, they are driving your car so you are financially responsible if they are in an accident.  Additionally, whether they are 16 or 18 years old, no patent wants their child seriously hurt in a car accident.  With that being said, below is the contact I recommend patients use for their teenagers regarding driving.  I recommend you use this contact whether they are 16 years old or 18 years old.  Below are the essential parts of a driving contract that I recommend:

1. Have some baseline rules.

The driving contract for new drivers should include baseline rules to discourage behaviors that lead to accident and injury or death. These behaviors should include never driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, never using a cell phone while driving, never speeding, and always wearing a seatbelt.

2. Include consequences.

The teen driving contract should also include specific consequences for violating the rules. Parents must be willing to enforce the rules in the teen driving contract. Otherwise your teenager will have no real incentive to follow them. Making the consequences specific—you will lose access to the car for a week, if … —is helpful. That way, everyone will be on the same page about what will happen if the rules are broken.

3. Always offer a “Safe Passage” clause.

Parents should institute a “safe-passage” clause in their contract. If they are ever concerned about getting into a car, as a driver or a passenger, you will pick them up. No questions asked. Save the discussion for the next morning or, better, yet several days later.

4. Be willing to enforce the contract.

The effectiveness of the teen driver contract directly correlates to your enforcement of it. These kinds of rules encourage teenagers to take the responsibility of driving seriously, while also helping them resist peer pressure.

The contract is basic and everyone understands the consequences if the contract is broken.  This can prevent a lot of arguments.  I recommend that parents and the teenager all sign the contract and all receive a copy of it.  This is an example of a contract for driving, but you can use contracts for many issues such as homework.  I have found that many parents become overwhelmed trying to write a contract.  Therefore, I have included this link It has templates to over 27 behavior contracts you can use with teenagers and they are free to download.  Hopefully, this will make using contracts easier.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims.  For more information regarding his work visit his website at or his Facebook page at or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.