By Melissa Cameron, for Mothersforum.org
When my niece got her driver’s license, I was wracked with a combination of disbelief and fear. First of all, how was it that my little niece, who I remember holding when she was just a few days, could already be old enough to drive? Impossible!
After I realized that it really had been 16 years and she was old enough to drive, at least according to the State of California, my next feeling was fear. There are so many dangers and distractions out on the road, coupled with the novice skills of as new driver … well, it’s just about enough to make your heart stop.
My sister and brother-in-law were great about going through some safety essentials with my niece, as well as making her sign a contract regarding her responsibility as a driver. The contract outlined the expectation under which she would drive, and also the consequences if she disobeyed them.
I wanted to share some of them with you, so that you can have an easier transition when your teen starts to drive.
Set the Ground Rules
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motor vehicle accidents are the single-largest cause of death for teens. Often time, alcohol, drugs or distraction due to cell phones are cited as contributing factors. Even if you think your child is squeaky clean when it comes to alcohol and drugs, you still need to have this important conversation with them.
- Drinking and Driving – Bottom line, and under no uncertain terms, your teen need to understand that there is no drinking and driving. Not even a little bit. That means both as a driver or a passenger. Let them know that they can call you anytime, no matter how late at night, or how far they may be from the house, for a ride. And, as a parent, you give them a ride home without yelling, screaming, or freaking out. The next morning, once everyone has had some sleep, plan to sit down as a family and discussed what happened.
- Cell Phones – Talking on the cell phone or texting is illegal in many states. Still, a law alone is not enough to get some people to pay attention. If your teen has a cell phone, it is important to talk about driving distractions and using your phone to talk or text. In 2010, the NHTSA research a report stating that 5,474 people were killed due to distracted driving. Approximately 20% of those deaths were related to cell phone distracts. This is serious stuff!
- Safe Driving – Go over the basics of what safe driving entails. Talk about topics like tailgating, defensive driving, yielding to others and using blinkers. If you ride with your teen driver, be sure to reinforce safe driving skills as you observe them.
The habits that are formed now will carry them through their driving career. Make sure you are shaping a courteous, safe driver, not a rude one. Also, pay attention to your own driving habits when your teen is in the car. Set a good example.
Every car should have a well-stocked emergency kit. The following things are the minimum that your kit should have.
A basic first aid kit is important to have in your car. The kit should include a first aid booklet as well as basic supplies such as gauze, medical tape, non-adhesive bandages, and an elastic bandage. Other helpful items include gloves, tweezers, small scissors, swabs, cotton balls, and antibiotic cream.
Flares or bright reflective triangles are good to have in your car. These devices can help other drivers avoid getting into an accident due to your accident. If you have space, a small fire extinguisher is also very practical to have.
Caring for the Car
Whether your teen is driving their own car or sharing the family car, it is important they learn some basics about caring for the car. At minimum, they should be responsible for periodically filling the gas tank.
They should also know how to check tire pressure and the oil level in the car and also know how to top off each of these.
When I first started driving, my dad taught me how to change a flat tire, as he never wanted me to be stranded. I can tell you that skill has come in handy a few times.
Make Sure You are Covered
Finally, with a new driver in the ranks of your household, you are going to want to notify your insurance agent, as you are likely going to need a new insurance quote for your car. You will face an increase in your premium with the addition of a teen driver, but the amount of that increase will depend on a few different factors, including what other drivers on the policy and they types of vehicles that are covered.
About the author: Melissa Cameron is a freelance writer who uses the internet to get things done quickly so she can get back to the fun things off-line. This week she used the internet to research online auto insurance rates, get information for passport renewal for an upcoming trip, and catch up on her banking. When she is not hanging out on the internet, she likes spending time with her husband and two young children.