How to Punish a Teen for a Car Accident
The best way to help prevent your teen from having an accident is to drive with her while she's learning and ensure she knows the rules, laws and how to drive safely. If your teen does get in an accident, after you establish he is safe and the accident was his fault, a few disciplinary measures can help him remember not to engage in risky behavior the next time he's behind the wheel.
Talk to your child to determine the facts of the case. Listen to his side of the story to determine his level of culpability and whether the accident stems from poor choices while driving or whether it was due to inexperience. Do not call your teen names or offer insults.
Sleep on it. Tell your teen that you will decide on a proper punishment and let him know the next day. This will give your emotions time to settle down so you can think objectively and not punish out of anger or fear.
Encourage your teen to take the same time to reflect on his own behavior. Have him write a letter about the accident, addressing why he thinks it occurred, what he could have done differently and what he thinks would be a proper punishment. This way, you will know he took some time to contemplate his actions.
Devise a suitable punishment based on the seriousness and the cause of the accident. For something serious such as an accident caused by drunken driving, taking the car keys for a period of time or until your teen shows you he can be trusted to drive sober, would be a suitable consequence. For a smaller accident such as hitting a pole when he swerved to miss a squirrel, having him work off the cost of the repairs will suffice.
Have your teen provide restitution to anyone who was injured in the accident. If the person is willing to talk to your son or daughter, have them visit the victim in the hospital or offer to make amends by helping him around the house or provide other assistance until he is back on his feet.
Have your teen sign a driving contract before she gets the keys back. Insist that driving rules such as always wearing a seat belt, no phones, no alcohol, no speeding and no eating be followed to retain driving privileges. Include punishments for infractions, such as the loss of car use for a week or a curfew for having the car out. Go over the rules and consequences with your teen and ensure they are understood before she gets back on the road.
Do not let punishments affect other aspects of your teen's life beyond the parameters of the punishable offense. If your teen has car privileges revoked for two weeks, for example, this should not interfere with her ability to play on the basketball team or participate in an academic endeavor.
- Psychology Today: Effective Punishment for the Adolescent.
- HealthyChildren.org: General Rules for Disciplining Teens
- Good Housekeeping: When Your Teen Wants You to Say No
- MedlinePlus: Safe Driving for Teens
- New York State Department of Motor Vehicles: The Parent's Guide to Teen Driving
- Empowering Parents: Risky Teen Behavior -- Can You Trust Your Child Again?
- Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images