Taking a long distance road trip with your teenage children in the car is a hair-raising experience. It would be more worrisome if teenagers go on a road trip all by themselves. Would you let your kids go off by themselves? It depends, of course, upon the circumstances and the purpose of the road trip; upon his companions on the road trip; and upon your teenager’s level of maturity and accountability.
If your teenager has just passed his driver’s test and has just obtained his driver’s license, you should think twice before letting him go off on a road trip unchaperoned. If your kid and his friends have been charged with DUI, speeding, or reckless driving, you must think twice. However, if your teenager and his friends have spotless driving records and the trip is for touring campuses, scholastic competition or attendance at a conference, then you can tell that the road trip won’t be an excuse to party while on the road.
If in the past, your teenager has shown involvement in the planning and execution of plans during your family road trip vacations, he is aware of what is necessary to make a road trip successful. If you see your teenager prepare for the trip by marking out a route on a map, working at an after school job to raise gas money, giving his car a tune-up and stocking up on necessary supplies for the trip your teenager is showing foresight and responsibility. You can probably trust him on an unchaperoned road trip.
If your teenager is considerate of your feelings; calls when he is going to be late; sends you text messages of his whereabouts, and if he is truthful and willing to ask for your help when necessary, then you may have reason to hope. If he lets you know whom he will be traveling with and you know their families, you can evaluate if his companions have the same sense of responsibility and accountability. His choice of companions can be a point of leverage for you: if he can assemble friends who are as mature and responsible as himself, then you can support the road trip.
Teenagers will have to go out into the world on their own at some point soon. If they have not learned responsibility in the past 18 years, then this road trip with friends will either be a milestone that marks a meaningful entry into full adulthood or else, this will set them back a few steps from which they can learn to regroup and try again.