Set Family Driving Rules and Limits

The state of Michigan has created laws for young drivers. Parents need to determine their own family rules in addition to the state laws. Make sure both sets of rules are clear from the start.

Beginning March 28, 2013, it is illegal for any teen driver with a Graduated Driver License Level 1 or Level 2 to use a cell phone while driving. "Use" means to initiate a call; answer a call; or listen to or engage in verbal communication through a cell phone.

This does not apply if the teen is using a voice-operated system that is integrated into the vehicle or if they use the cell phone to:

  • Report a traffic accident, medical emergency or serious road hazard.
  • Report a situation in which the teen believes his or her personal safety is in jeopardy.
  • Report or prevent the commitment of a crime or potential crime against the teen or another person.

Michigan GDL Restrictions

A Level 1 licensed driver may only drive with a licensed parent/guardian or designated licensed adult age 21 or older.

A Level 2 licensed driver:

1. Shall not operate a motor vehicle between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. except when:
  • driving to or from or in the course of employment;
  • driving to or from an authorized activity; or
  • accompanied by a parent or legal guardian or a licensed driver 21 years of age or older designated by the parent or legal guardian.
2. Shall not operate a motor vehicle at any time with more than one passenger in the vehicle who is younger than 21 years of age except:
  • when the additional passengers are immediate family members;
  • when driving to or from, or in the course of employment;
  • while going to or from an authorized activity; or
  • when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, or a licensed driver 21 years of age or older designated by the parent or legal guardian.

Authorized activity means any of the following:

(a) A school or a school-sanctioned event or activity. School means a public or private school, including a home school.
(b) A sporting event or activity, or extracurricular event or activity, that is not school-sanctioned but that is part of an official sports league or association, or an official extracurricular club, or that is paid for as a service offered by a business specializing in those events or activities or training for those events or activities.
(c) A class or program of vocational instruction offered by a college, community college, nonprofit association, or unit of government or by a business specializing in vocational training.
(d) An event or activity sponsored by a religious organization that is tax-exempt under federal law.
Transporting an individual in need of immediate emergency care or personal protection to a health care professional, hospital, police station, domestic violence shelter or public safety location.

A Level 3 licensed driver has no state-imposed license restrictions. 

Driving Rules for Your Family

Enforce safety belt use for your teen and all passengers.

Michigan's Primary Seatbelt Law requires that all drivers & passengers riding in the front seat wear a safety belt. In addition, all passengers under 16, no matter where they sit in the vehicle must be wearing safety belts.

Require a full report.

Before your teen leaves, require information about each trip such as where they are going, with whom and when they will return.

It is strongly suggested that you require your teen driver to check in each time before they drive by answering these questions: 

  1. Where are you going?
  2. Who will your passengers be?
  3. When will you return?
  4. What is the weather expected to be like?
  5. What route will you take?

Prohibit driving or riding with someone who has used alcohol or drugs.

Agree that they can call you anytime, and you will pick them up.

Limit distractions.

New drivers really need to focus. Minimize things that might draw their attention away from driving. Consider prohibiting:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Adjusting the radio/CD player
  • Passenger "horseplay"

Don't let your teen drive when they're tired.

Sleep-related crashes are most common in young people. Teach your teen to recognize when they are too tired to drive.

Don't let your teen drive when they're overly emotional.

Tell your teen not to drive when they are highly emotional, regardless of whether they are angry, happy or sad. 

Require purposeful driving.

Purposeful driving is driving for a reason to a specific destination. Teen driving is most dangerous when done without a specific purpose or destination.  Limiting your teen to purposeful driving will help keep them safe - as well as help cut down on pouring dollars down your gas tank.

The Parent-Teen Driving Agreement 

Create and have your teen and you both sign a contract.  

Create a written contract with your teen, one that grants more driving privileges as your teen continues to follow rules and gain experience behind the wheel. If they drive irresponsibly, they lose their driving privileges. For a sample visit to see the Checkpoints Program, a research-based, free resource for parents of teen drivers in Michigan.

Set clear consequences for breaking the law and family rules, such as:

If your teen is untruthful about where she or he was going in the car ... they lose their driving privileges for _______ weeks/months.

The state of Michigan's laws and your family's rules are meant to keep your teen driver - and everyone else on the road - safe.  But they won't work unless they are enforced. Law enforcement will do their part to enforce penalties for violations of state laws, but you must do yours. Enforce consequences for violations. Remember you are the parent and you have total control, use it.