One significant part of growing up in the US is getting your driver’s license — it’s almost a rite of passage. But operating a vehicle must be taken seriously. In fact, traffic crashes are still the leading cause of death of young adults. With the right education, hours of practical, behind-the-wheel training, and teen driver safety tips, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing your teenager is well-equipped with knowledge and practical know-how to safely operate a vehicle.
Practice in Various Weather Conditions
Knowing how your vehicle handles in different conditions is one of the most important ways to stay safe — especially in the Midwest. Take your teen to a wide, empty lot, (eg. a mall parking lot) when it rains or snows and have them practice driving techniques so they can get a feel for the subtle changes in vehicle behavior. At the same time, take the opportunity to educate them on the vehicle’s features that can have significant impact. For instance, you may want to teach them how to switch to four-wheel drive in extreme winter conditions to reduce the chances of sliding. Teach them how to apply hydrophobic coating, like Rain-X, to the windshield to increase visibility during rainy conditions.
Maintain Your Vehicle Properly
One of the most important things you can do to preserve your vehicle’s overall integrity is to maintain it properly and regularly. Here are some of the most important things to maintain:
- Tires: Regularly check your tire pressure to ensure they are at the optimal psi. You can find your vehicle’s optimal psi in the owner’s manual or, in newer cars, it is often listed on a sticker inside the driver’s door. Additionally, be sure to rotate the tires periodically — and get snow tires before the winter if you anticipate driving in snow.
- Oil: In order to keep the engine running, you need to change the oil somewhat frequently. Newer engines can run for around 7,500-10,000 miles before needing an oil change. Some modern vehicles will even have an integrated oil monitor in the dashboard and will let you know when it needs to be changed. Just be sure not to ignore the warnings! At best, ignoring oil changes will wear your engine down prematurely; at worst, the engine will be bricked entirely and need replacing.
- Lights: Be sure that no headlights, brake lights, turning signals or fog beams are out of commission. Non-functioning lights can present safety hazards and can even land you a hefty fine if police catch it.
- Brakes: There’s no recommended schedule for checking your brakes for wear and tear. But generally speaking, you’ll have to do it more frequently if you live in an urban area due to the nature of stop-and-go traffic. Whenever you have your tires rotated, be sure to check the brake pads as well.
Buckle Up and Obey Traffic Laws
Seatbelts are one of the most important safety features of any vehicle. In 2019, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that if you buckle up in the front seat of a passenger car, you can reduce your risk of fatal injury by 45% and moderate to critical injury by 50%. The NHTSA also notes:
- Buckling up is the single most effective thing you can do to protect yourself during a car crash.
- Airbags DO NOT replace seat belts, but rather work in tandem with them.
- You should still wear a seat belt when pregnant. Simply keep the belt under your belly so it is snug against your hips and pelvic bone.
Additionally, it’s important to have a real understanding of the local traffic laws. Your teenager is probably already well-versed on the subject, especially if they’re currently or recently completed a teen drivers education course. But if you or your teenager ever need a refresher, Top Driver offers online refresher courses to keep you in the know and safe behind the wheel.
Keep a Toolkit and Emergency Equipment in the Trunk
In the event of an emergency, it’s vital to be equipped with both knowledge and tools. Whether you’re involved in a crash or simply stranded due to a mechanical problem, having a basic tool kit, jumper cables, and others will greatly help you in the moment and potentially even save your life.
We created an in-depth guide on what essentials you should always keep in your car here.
Discuss Dangers of Impaired, Drowsy, and Distracted Driving
Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is one of the most dangerous things you can do. It’s no secret that drunk driving is not only highly illegal, it is also extremely unsafe for the driver, passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers. Nearly 28 people die every single day in the US because of drunk driving, according to the NHTSA. Additionally, getting pulled over while drunk driving will result in license suspension or revocation, extremely harsh fines, and probably jail time. It’s important that you sit down with your teenager and let them know that, while they shouldn’t be doing drugs or drinking at all, that they can count on you for support if they ever find themselves in a situation where they are being pressured to drink and drive.
In the same vein, distracted driving can pose similar dangers. Your teen should know that safe driving requires 100% of their attention 100% of the time. They should also learn how to recognize the signs that a driver in their vicinity may be impaired or distracted.
Read more in-depth on the topic of distracted driving here.
Set a Good Example
One of the most effective things you can do to keep your teen safe behind the wheel is to set a good example for them yourself. Our kids learn more from us than we may think, including habits — both good and bad. One of the best ways to instill good values into your child is to practice what you preach when it comes to driver safety. You can talk all day, but the fact of the matter is that if your teen sees you texting while driving, disobeying traffic laws, or being otherwise unsafe, there’s increased risk all your talk of safety will fall on deaf ears. If you don’t take safety seriously, they won’t either.
Stay Safe on the Road With Top Driver
Top Driver’s top priority is to equip you and your teen with the knowledge needed to stay safe on the road. With more than 40 locations throughout Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio, Top Driver is your best resource for driver education, providing over 21,000 hours of in-vehicle training and 15,000 hours of classes each year. We have a variety of teen programs for new drivers, adult refresher courses, and remedial courses.
Top Driver is also going the extra mile to ensure a safe learning space for our students and instructors by providing remote classroom education opportunities and implementing a coronavirus vehicle sanitization process.
Call 1 (800) 374-8373 or enroll online today!
- 4 Signs a Driver is Distracted
- In Case of Emergency: Essential Tools to Keep in Your Car
- Causes of Road Rage and How to Deal With Enraged Drivers