The good news: Your teen is home safe and sound. The bad news: He just received a traffic violation. Take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief that he made it home safely, and then use that breath to talk to that teenager about why he received that traffic ticket in the first place.
So now what do you do? First, make sure you’re calm when you talk to your child about her mistake. If you’re not calm, the inevitable outcome will be a shouting match in which neither of you will listen to the other. Remember the first time you got a ticket or were pulled over by a cop. Your teen is likely scared and embarrassed and it’s your job as a parent to be understanding.
Pinpoint the reason for the violation
Next, talk about what went wrong. Sometimes teenagers get distracted — they’re talking on the phone, they’re waving at a friend or they’re eating a snack. This is possibly what led to the traffic violation. Review with your teen what they could have done differently to avoid getting this ticket again. (Suddenly slowing down when she sees a cop just to speed up after he passes is not the right answer). No matter the reason for the ticket, it’s important that your teen take responsibility for her actions.
Take care of the fine
Some traffic violations require a court appearance and some sort of fine. When your teenagers receive tickets as minors, the parents may be required to accompany them to court. At court, you may choose to contest the ticket if you and your teen feel it was a mistake, or you may choose to plead guilty and pay the fine and court fees. Prepare your child, and yourself, mentally and physically to appear before the judge. This could be a very traumatic experience for your teen and she’ll need your help to make it through in a dignified manner. Tell her she’s not a bad person and that appearing before a court doesn’t mean she’s a criminal. It is just part of the traffic ticket process. Prepare yourself by researching the law and making sure you have all the documentation the court will require. If you plan to plead not guilty, bring evidence or a passenger as a witness to back up your claim. If the violation was minor, you may also have the option to send in a check without having to attend court.
Contact your insurance agent
Court fees and fines vary widely depending on the traffic violation and the state in which you reside. According to the DMV website, “Most often, the consequences for specific violations are consistent throughout the state.” Along with a fine, traffic tickets are associated with some number of points. Once a certain number of points are accumulated, your teen driver may have his license revoked or be required to attend traffic school. Another consequence of traffic violations is a possible increase in your insurance rates. The DMV website explains, “Every company has a different policy when it comes to traffic tickets. Some will raise your rates for three years, and others may apply a surcharge for the first year.”
Hold the teenager responsible
During all this, you’ll want to be sure your teen takes part in the consequences of his actions. If he has a job, have him help pay the court fees and ticket fine. If your insurance rate rises, have him help pay the difference. You might also consider revoking certain privileges for a time so that your teen can pay better attention to the road: restrict him from cell phone use, forbid him from taking friends with him in the car, or take away his keys for a while. Depending on the severity of the infraction and the amount of sincere regret he shows, you might want to adjust your punishment.
Driving is a great modern convenience, but it can also be very dangerous when a driver doesn’t pay attention to the road. Make sure your teenager realizes how critical it is that she doesn’t abuse her driving privileges by allowing her to take responsibility for her actions. But also remember that your child is still learning and needs you to set a good example and be available to her when she needs help.