You Know the Laws. Now Set the Rules

As a parent, you’ve been setting rules and expectations since your kids were infants. Now that they’re learning to drive, the rules you establish just might save a life.

When your teen obtains a learner’s permit, you will be required to ride in the car when he or she is driving. This is your chance to impart driving wisdom directly, in real-time. But AAA Foundation research has suggested that teens don’t get enough practice managing a variety of challenging road conditions, such as driving at rush hour, in inclement weather, or at night. Getting this practice with a parent in the car is much safer for a new driver than first experiencing such conditions later on when driving independently.

When it comes time for your teen to trade in a learner’s permit for a license, your presence in the vehicle is no longer a legal requirement. But that doesn’t mean your role as coach, partner, and supervisor of your teen’s driving has ended (despite the fact that Foundation studies have shown that parental presence in the car plummets at this point). Laws vary depending on what state you live in, but all states have some form of graduated driver licensing (GDL) provisions, which impose restrictions on novice teen drivers for a period of time. These may include things like late-night driving prohibitions, passenger limits, or cell phone bans.

Knowing your state’s GDL laws is critical, but remember – these are simply the minimum legal requirements your teen must obey. As a parent, you have the right to establish stronger rules if you see fit, and to supervise your teen’s driving privileges even from outside the car. One way we recommend managing this: sign a parent-teen driving agreement that spells out when, why, where, and with whom your teen is allowed to drive, and stick to the rules you and your teen generate together. For more information and ideas about such agreements, visit
Parent involvement in the learning-to-drive process is recognized as an important factor in keeping teens safe. Several states even require that parents attend special classes about the teen licensure and learning process, and ongoing Foundation research is investigating how to “train the trainers,” so to speak, as effectively as possible. Remember that driving is inherently risky for everyone, and even more so for teens. Nobody is in a better position to help them learn to manage and reduce those risks than you.