DEAR ABBY: My niece, "Amy," got her driver's license last November. Since then she has been stopped six times for violations. Unfortunately, she wasn't ticketed for any of them -- just given warnings. Who knows how many other times she should have been ticketed?
When Amy told me about it, she acted like it was a joke and something she was proud of. Her parents are divorced and her father spoils her beyond reason. He gives her whatever she wants, including buying her a new car. Her mother has little control over her.
My niece doesn't seem to understand the possible consequences or what serious damage a car can do to her or to someone else. How should I handle this? I have no contact with her father. Any ideas? -- CONCERNED AUNT IN MASSACHUSETTS
DEAR CONCERNED AUNT: Although Amy was old enough to get her license, she is not yet mature enough to handle the responsibility that goes along with driving. For her sake I hope you will impress upon her mother that lives could depend upon her exerting control over her daughter.
Many states restrict conditions under which a teen may drive a car. In addition, many parents draft a driving contract that stipulates things like what kind of grade-point average their teenager must maintain to keep his or her driving privileges, limiting the number of passengers he or she can transport and certain distance limits.
Other restrictions can be added at the parents' option. A version of the following contract has appeared in my column before:
I ( ), agree to the stipulations stated below granting me the privilege of driving. If, at any time, I violate this agreement, my driving privileges will be forfeited.
(1) Should I get a traffic ticket, I agree to pay for the ticket, as well as the difference in the insurance premium for as long as the premium is in effect.
(2) I agree to pay for damages that I incur that are not covered by insurance.
(3) At no time will I ever text or use a cellphone while driving.
(4) At no time will I ever drink alcoholic beverages and drive, nor will there ever be any in my car.
(5) I will not drive the car until I and all passengers have buckled up.
(6) I will keep the car I drive clean, inside and out, be aware of its need for gas, oil, etc., and wax it as needed.
I have read the above agreement and will sign it in accordance with the rules.
I hope you will share this information with Amy's mother, because in careless hands a car can be as dangerous as a loaded gun. It is not a toy, even though your niece appears to be treating it like one.