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Kids’ Questions: I Crashed The Family Car!


Dear Rene,

I’m 16 and just got my drivers license! I took driving classes at school and my parents let me practice in the family car on the weekends. So when it came time to take the driving test I was more than ready. I passed the test on my first try!

I’ve only had my license for a month but last week I borrowed the family car for a couple of hours to go shopping.  While leaving the mall parking lot I was waiting to merge into ongoing traffic, when a car hit the front of my car.

My mom and dad are not happy. They didn’t think I was ready to drive on my own yet and then this happens. I know that I followed all the rules of the road and the accident really wasn’t my fault. But, they don’t seem to care. So since the accident, I’ve been forbidden to drive the family car.

Rene, how can I convince my parents that even after the accident I am a responsible new driver?


Rachel, Mississippi

Dear Rachel:

Let’s say for your 16th birthday you get a smartphone, with your name engraved in the candy-colored shell and unlimted texting to boot. WOW! One day your kid sister asks if she can play a game on it. Thought initially wary, you go ahead and let her because you trust her when she promises she’ll be careful with it. In moments, she’s standing before you, crying, holding your drenched phone that she accidentally dropped in the toilet. Think about how you would feel. Would it take a long time before you let her have your phone again? You bet! That’s just how your parents feel. So you need to regain their trust, just as your sister would have to do with you. I have a few ideas you might try.

OFFER TO PAY FOR THE DAMAGE: Based on what you describe in your letter, it sounds as if the other car hit you. But the facts are that you were driving and there’s a car with a crumbled bumper that needs to be fixed. Offering to help them with the deductible will show that you are taking ownership of the situation even if it wasn’t all your fault.

SUGGEST A PROBATIONARY PERIOD: Don’t squeal just yet, hear me out. It’s unlikley your folks are going to blindly trust you just becuse you ask. You need to SHOW them you have learned and grown from the experience. You also need to show them you know what you are doing and can handle adverse situations as they crop up on the road. I would suggest a “probation” of sorts where you drive with them in the car, until they are comfortable with you behnd the wheel again.

ACCEPT THEIR DECISION, EVEN IF IT’S NO: And I mean without throwing a fit or tantrum. Don’t scream about how life is not fair; think about how unfair it is for them! They’re out a couple hundred bucks and now have a mark on their clean insurance record through no fault of their own.  Life isn’t fair and we all have to play the hand we’re dealt. In this case, you have to work through the consequences of an accident that may not have been all your fault. Trust me when I say this; NOT throwing a fit with whatever they decide will again show them how mature you are becoming and could result in you driving alone again, perhaps sooner than you think.

Rachel, the important thing for you to realize is that your folks aren’t trying to punsh you so much as they are genuinely concerned for your safety. It might not be a bad idea to go back a few steps and make sure you’ve learned what you need to if that is the ultimate result.

Hang in there!

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  1. Jennifer

    April 30, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Perfect advice.

    Funny story. In high school, I crashed a family car only it wasn’t my family’s car, it was someone elses. Needless to say, I didn’t drive ANYONE’S car for a while after that and I knew why and didn’t argue. And my friends called me “Crash” after that and wouldn’t let me get behind their family car’s wheel for a million bucks.

    I like the smartphone example Rene!

  2. Joss

    April 30, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    oh teenage drivers! We were all once novice drivers, and probably thought we were better than we really were.

    Take your time hun, your parents WILL let you drive again. After all, they will eventually get sick of driving you all over the place.

    As a parent, if my daughter came to me humbly accepting that the accident might have been partly her fault, just a teeny little bit. And offered to pay the full or part of the deductible. I would be inclined to get her back behind the wheel sooner rather than later.

  3. keith

    May 1, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    I actually did this…and was intoxicated to boot. My lesson was obviously a little different, and it took another alcohol related arrest before I learned my lessons.

    Im going to be in the minority here, but I think your parents are overreacting if you were the one that was hit. That doesnt mean i think you should give them crap about it because they hold your driving future in their hands. But I think they are being a little….ok, a lot ridiculous, if the details above are how this really happened. And I think after they cool off they will see that as well. My guess is you will be driving before the school year is over.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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