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    Ask Amy

    Parents disagree about daughter’s speeding offense

    Q. Our 16-year-old, recently licensed daughter was pulled over today for doing 32 in a 20-mph school zone. She has to enter a four-lane road with heavy traffic and obstructed visibility just below the crest of a hill. She accelerated too fast and was immediately stopped by a cop who had set up a speed trap for people speeding down the hill (one of the reasons she has anxiety about pulling out into traffic to begin with).

    She is not a scofflaw and was very upset by the interaction.

    Her stepmother (my wife), wants to take the car away for three weeks and make her pay any increase in insurance rates that accrue due to this incident, along with any fines (she doesn’t have a job yet). She’s at her mother’s house now, but will be back with us tomorrow.


    I think that’s excessive — motive is important. I believe the consequences should match the severity and willfulness of the act. In this case, I see no willfulness and lots of contrition on her part, so I’m for letting it go with a warning and having her pay any fine she may receive. What say you, Amy? How should we handle this?

    Upset Father

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    A. Your daughter is an inexperienced driver. All of the adults involved need to understand that everything that happened here (aside from the speeding in a school zone) is a good thing. She should not take routes that scare her until she has more experience and feels ready to handle merging into traffic at the correct rate of speed.

    Your daughter didn’t cause a traffic accident (thank goodness). Speed traps are set up to make everyone more aware. Although having a teen driver with a speeding offense boosts insurance rates, contact your insurance provider to see what programs they offer for teens to clean up their record. High grades, weekend defensive driving courses, and perfect attendance at school can help.

    I don’t agree with your wife’s idea of taking the car away and further punishing your daughter. Your daughter needs more time (supervised) on the road — not less. Yes, I agree with you that she should pay the speeding fine (it will be hefty). She should participate in programs to control your insurance rates. You should all see this as a very commonplace teaching and learning opportunity.

    Being a stepparent is a tough job, and there are times — and this is one of them — when a stepparent should make her opinion known, and then cede the final decision to the child’s other two parents. Your wife’s challenge is to basically back you up, even when she doesn’t agree with you. For an involved stepparent, this is where the rubber truly meets the road.


    Q. I was married about a year and a half ago.

    I changed my name and my e-mail account name.

    Prior to getting married, my e-mail address was based on my maiden name, and now it is based on my married name.

    Several people — my own friends, my own family, and my in-laws — still contact me via my old e-mail address.

    I have asked them to change it in their contact list, but they still contact me via the old e-mail address, which is based on my maiden name.


    Is there a way to deal with this not-so-major matter without making a big fuss?

    Newly Married

    A. This is happening because when any of us fills out the “To:” address field to send an e-mail, the provider will guess (usually correctly) who we are addressing it to, and autofill the remainder of the address. Because historically e-mails were generated to and from this previous address, people will continue to use it.

    One way to get this changed is to always send and reply from your current (corrected) address. (Don’t click reply from the incorrect address.) That way the e-mail chain will essentially switch over to your current address. Run a signature line reminding people to change your address in their contacts list.

    Q. I shuddered when I read the letter from “Worried Gran,” who believed that her young grandchild was living in a (possibly) abusive environment. Among your many recommendations, I appreciated that you suggested that this child be enrolled in Head Start. Head Start gave my kids a real head start in life.


    A. Head Start has served over 25 million children in its more than 50-year history. Access to good nutrition and early learning has transformed the lives of countless families. Anyone interested in finding their local Head Start programs should check and enter their ZIP code into the locator service database.

    Amy Dickinson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @askingamy