Next to having safety rules for our children, the au pair’s personal driving is usually the activity that is most “regulated” by host parents.
Whether this car is for the sole use of the au pair or whether it is shared with the host parents, most host parents put some kind of limitations on the au pair’s off-duty use of the car.
We limit the use of the car to keep our au pairs out of dangerous situations (e.g., driving home from a club at 2 am), to keep the expenses of the car in check, to keep our au pair from becoming everyone else’s chauffeur, and to extend the life of the car.
Cars are expensive to buy, to maintain and to insure, which seems to be the most important reasons to limit the use of the car.
But actually, while it’s the car that you limit, it’s the au pair whom you protect.
Au pairs are usually relatively inexperienced drivers who find that driving behavior in the US can be pretty crazy. So, consider these limitations, below, as different tools to keep your au pair in safer situations when s/he’s driving.
Common Ways To Limit the Au Pair Car
- Car Curfew The car, (though, not the au pair) has to be home at a certain time at night. Curfews prevent the car from being parked overnight in a strange area, and from being driven at night when conditions are more dangerous.
- Weather Rules No driving in the snow unless otherwise cleared by a host parent. (This constraint was critical for us with our South African au pairs, but was something we relaxed for our au pair from Sweden).
- Monthly Mileage Budget Some au pair cars have a monthly limit to the number of miles that the car can be driven. This limit keeps the total number of miles in check, but allows the au pair to set his or her own priorities about to use the mileage. S/he may choose to drive on many short excursions, or to save up for a longer trip.The mileage budget is one straightforward way to prevent your car from being used for every long group trip, and is also a way to hedge against your au pair being treated like the cluster taxi. In either case, your au pair can blame you and your rules as a way to get out of a situation where s/he is being taken advantage of.
- Range Restrictions Au Pair cars can be required to stay within a certain radius of the host family home, say 5 miles (plenty in New Jersey) or 20 miles (more appropriate in the country).
- Excluded Roads Our au pair car cannot be driven on the Garden State Parkway or the New Jersey Turnpike. Even though there are other highways with 55 mile/hr speed limits where our au pair cars could go, these two big ones seem the scariest for a relatively inexperienced driver. Also, they are hard to maneuver even if you are a sane and safe driver!
- Excluded Locations There are some places you just. don’t. want. your car to go. Case in point? New York City.
In most situations, driving for personal use is a privilege and not a right. Au pairs generally understand the limitations when host parents share the reasoning behind them.
Relaxing Car Limitations Can Be A Reward
One bonus of car limitations is that they give you an easy way to reward your au pair when s/he has been doing a great job.
When au pairs demonstrate that they are careful drivers, and when you want to give your au pair an extra privilege or two, you can consider relaxing the car limitations for a specific event (like going ‘down the shore’) or even doing away with a limitation.
We’ve come up with these car limitations after years of minor accidents, late night phone calls, suspiciously low gas mileage, and au pairs with a range of driving sense. We know that as a family we’re big on ‘guidelines’ and rules, but we’ve found that this clarity has worked well for us and for our relationships with our au pairs.
What other Au Pair car limitations should we all consider? Please share!
Using Your Car is a Privilege, not an Entitlement: Best practices
The 3rd Car: Avoiding a sense of entitlement
Advice Wanted: How to manage too much “personal” use of family car
Providing Your Au Pair With Safe, Affordable, Convenient Transportation