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A P-Plater In The Family

driver ed 4My teenage son got his provisional licence last week.  I guess that most parents in this situation will have a mixture of emotions: relief (no more having to sit in the passenger seat! no more Mum’s taxi duty!), worry (I’ve read the stats on young male drivers…), wistfulness (my little baby boy is all grown up) and pride (hasn’t he done well!).  I had expected that I would be a lot more worried the first time he drove solo (out to his uncle’s place for dinner and to drop off some furniture).  When it actually happened, I was more worried that he was going to not tie the furniture onto the deck of the old ute properly and have it fall onto the road.

Which brings me neatly to one thing that the parents of P-platers need to remember: P-platers are still learning. They may be able to drive solo, saving you some of the hassle of running them about, but they still have got a lot to learn.  My son still needs a few lessons in tying loads onto the deck of a ute or a trailer (it’s part of driving in daily life, after all), and in driving in snowy or icy conditions, for example.  Your P-plater may need other advanced level lessons to sharpen up their skills.

Admittedly, some of the things they need to learn while on their P-plates are only going to be learned through experience. They need to learn to take responsibility for their actions even when Mum/Dad/the cops aren’t looking.  They need to develop enough backbone to leave band practice on time to they don’t break the curfew.

And if they mess up, they need to do something to pay for any repairs or fines.  If they don’t have a job and you have to foot the bill, then extra work should be done around the home to help you in return for this.  You shouldn’t cover their butts and take all the consequences for them.  With privilege comes responsibility, after all.

Car-KeysHaving a P-plater in the family does bring a shift in the dynamics.  There are new rules and possibly new routines to be sorted out.  During the inevitable negotiations, remember that you are the real grown-up and you are still in charge!  It’s your name on the ownership papers of the car, after all, so you do get the final say.

Some points worth discussing and setting boundaries for may include the following:

  • What activities can and can’t your P-plater take your car to?  For example, we have the rule that my son can take the car to band practice, to jobs and to church activities, but not to school, as there’s a perfectly good school bus that our taxes pay the petrol for… except on the days when his little sister has gym practice and he can drive himself and her to school as long as he takes her to gym (Big Brother’s taxi instead of Mum’s taxi).  Rule two is that if we’re all going to the same place, we all go in the one car and don’t take two cars per family.  You will probably have your own set of activities and rules.
  • If you have more than one car, are certain cars off-limits to your P-plater? This may be for insurance purposes or for safety purposes or both.  In our family, my son can drive the old Nissan Navara ute solo but not my Volvo.  This may come as a surprise to some who know about the almost legendary safety standards of Volvos. However, the old Nissan ute is a manual with column change and a small diesel engine that can tow trailers well but isn’t particularly speedy.  The Volvo, however, is an automatic and has the tendency to creep up over the speed limit, as it doesn’t have cruise control. Fast automatic car + young male driver = trouble.
  • How will your P-plater contribute towards the upkeep of the vehicle?  Not all P-platers have jobs.  If your P-plater has a job, then it’s reasonable to expect some contribution towards petrol money, especially if he/she takes the car to get to the job.  If your P-plater doesn’t have a job, then assistance can be made in the form of extra chores or running errands in the car.

Above all, remember that it’s your car and that you control the car keys.  Use of your vehicle by someone else is a privilege, not a right.

Safe and happy driving,


P.S. The furniture didn’t fall off the ute and he got back before curfew.