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May 7, 2012

by Tim Hollister, author of "From Reid's Dad," a national blog for parents of teen drivers

I am pleased to be asked to provide a guest post on this blog.  I write a national blog for parents of teen drivers, "From Reid's Dad,"  One of my major recent efforts has been to come up with an improved national model for a teen driving agreement. 


  In December 2009, after spending several months researching several dozen teen driving contracts from around the country, and using both my knowledge of teen driving and my experience as a lawyer with contracts, I posted three articles on my blog:  one about what not to do in teen driver agreements (provisions that I thought were incomplete, misstated, misleading, misguided, etc.); one about how to negotiate a teen driving agreement (emphasizing that it should be a collaborative process); and one about how to work with and enforce a signed agreement. Then in February 2010 I posted my own national model, a compilation of best practices that I had gleaned from the best national models.

A few months ago, here in Connecticut, Commissioner Melody Currey of our Department of Motor Vehicles convened a new Advisory Group on Safe Teen Driving and asked the group to do three things:  come up with a statewide model teen driving agreement specifically for Connecticut; create a model curriculum for the two hour, mandatory safety class that Connecticut since 2008 has required parents to attend when their 16 or 17 year old has a learner’s permit; and produce an instructional video about critical safety information for parents to see during that required class.  I was member of the teen driving agreement subcommittee.  Over several weeks the subcommittee considered my model, a model developed by the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, and host of others from around the country, and came up with a wide variety of improvements on the prior models (including mine) and a consensus recommendation for a new one. At a meeting in early December, the Advisory Committee adopted a new model for Connecticut.

The adoption of this new model for Connecticut led me to go back to my own national model and incorporate the improvements and insights that the Connecticut subcommittee had provided, which I have now done.  The newly revised model is now available on the landing page ofmy blog,, downloadable as a pdf.  It is a national model but is easily adaptable to your state and family situation.  A Spanish language version is also on the landing page.

Here are the important improvements and features contained in this newly revised version

  • use of the word “agreement” instead of contract, to highlight that this is not a legally binding document, but a commitment to follow an agreed-upon set of understandings and expectations;
  • use of the term “supervising adult” instead of “parent,” to recognize the reality that not every teen driver is supervised by a biological or adoptive parent, but sometimes by a guardian, relative, or family friend;
  • an express direction to teens and parents to review and sign the agreement whether teen obtains a learners permit and then review it again and make any needed changes when the teen gets a license;
  • a critical set of cautions for parents, asking them to consider whether their teens are ready to begin driving at all, to acknowledge the dangers of any electronic devices, and a reminder that parents are roles models for their teens and must be safe, responsible and defensive drivers at all times;
  • a clear statement, to be reviewed and initialed by both parents, regarding the four greatest risks of teen driving:  the delayed development of the part of the human brain that provides caution and risk assessment; the fact that passing Driver’s Ed and getting license makes a teen a beginner, not a safe driver; the fact that teens violating state laws can cause injury, death, property damage, and financial liability; and the types of conduct (speeding, reckless driving, etc.) that increase the risk of injury or death to the driver, passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians;
  • a clear statement about the time period of the agreement;
  • recognition that the teen’s driving will be supervised day by day by an adult;
  • an understanding that each time a teen drives, the teen and adult will devise a “driving plan” for that trip
  • a clear statement about seat belt use — all vehicle occupants at all times;
  • regarding electronic devices, a simple statement focused on driver conduct (when the car is not in Park, no use of any electronic device for typing, texting, reading, video watching, or communicating with someone outside the car) (getting away from confusing state laws about electronic devices, many of which focus on regulating some gadgets while exempting others);
  • curfew provision intending to be customized to reflect your state’s law;
  • a recommended three stage (a/k/a “graduated”) passenger provision (first phase – adult supervisor only, then add immediately family members, then add other passengers);
  • clear rules on alcohol, drugs, fatigue, speeding, finances;
  • a provision about who may report a violation of the agreement to a supervising adult, and the fact that any suspension under the agreement is in addition to penalties or suspensions under state law;
  • “call for a safe ride” provision, saying that the teen at any time and for any reason may call for a safe ride, and doing so will not be a violation of the agreement;
  • an optional provision to appoint a third party as mediator if the supervising adult and teen have a dispute about the agreement; and
  • a final written “Commitment to Safety” by the teen and supervising adult or adults signing and dating the agreement.

I am not aware of any teen driving agreement available at this time that combines all of these futures and best practices.  I respectfully submit that this newly revised model is  step forward, and hope that traffic safety organizations, DMV’s, insurers, auto manufacturers, driving schools and instructors, and others around the country will give it serious consideration.

Finally, I recognize that, as many improvement as we have made, the work is never done, and as always I welcome comments, suggestions, and improvements on how this newly revised model posted today can be further improved.


Timothy S. Hollister 

Shipman & Goodwin LLP 

One Constitution Plaza 

Hartford, Connecticut 06103-1919 

Fax - 860-251-5318 

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