Do you have a new teen driver in your life? Whether your teenager is eager or nervous about getting behind the wheel, they need to learn. Yes, even if you live in a city with an excellent public transportation system, learning to drive is an essential life skill that will prove very useful. But how can you help them prepare and stay safe? Here are six ways to help a teen drive safely so they (and face it, you) can feel confident in their driving skills and worry a little bit less.
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#1 Install a Car Phone Mount
Phones are a distraction, plain and simple, and a good teen driver should know that their friends’ texts can wait. But even the best teen drivers need a little help with things like driving directions and more. So one of the best ways to help teens drive safely behind the wheel is to install a car phone mount. With their phone mounted to the windshield, dashboard or vent, they can drive hands-free and free of distractions. They can find their route before leaving and keep their eyes and attention on the road, instead of the phone that indicates your next turn or even that text from you. Choose a car phone mount that offers wireless charging or get them an extra car charger to ensure their phone battery won’t die in an emergency, too.
#2 Install a Dash Cam
A Dash Cam is another car accessory you can get to help teens drive safely. Dash cams can monitor their driving when you’re not in the car. Recording video of the drive, you can see their location at any given time and be alerted of misuse or speeding. Ultimately, dash cams can help you spot any bad driving habits and help steer them into better ones.
In the event of a crash or fender bender, a Dash Cam can also help you prove who was at fault and even generate an insurance report. Since they’re new drivers, teens are often blamed first and can wind up with a ticket. But a Dash Cam can help disprove unwarranted fines, keeping your insurance premiums from spiking.
#3 Send Them to Driver’s Education Classes
One of the best ways to help a teen drive safely is to send them to driver’s ed. Sometimes, parents are too close to the situation and being taught by a private driving instructor can help teens learn quicker without so much pressure and without picking up your bad driving habits. Practice takes time and when parents need the car for work, etc., it isn’t always easy. Instead, with a driver’s ed class, they can learn about road signs and defensive driving techniques to keep them safe on the road.
In fact, many car insurance providers will even offer a discount when a teen passes their driver’s ed course. Parents simply submit the certificate to their provider.
#4 Be Patient When Teaching
Once they pass the course, they will need hands-on practice and experience. Parents who ride along should be patient, letting teens take their time and start slow. If they feel nervous, start out in smaller spaces with no other cars around, like an empty parking lot or quiet side street. Then, you can head out into traffic. As a parent, know that mistakes will be made. But instead of lashing out or raising voices, calmly explain their errors and help them see how they can improve. On the flip side, encourage them to speak up if they feel too nervous.
Also, while driving is still overwhelming, help new teen drivers keep a lookout on the road for potential hazards. In time, they will learn how to look out and avoid them, but for now, an extra pair of eyes helps. Since teen drivers are three times more likely to be involved in crashes at night, take this last step when they feel very confident.
#5 Teach Them Basic Car Maintenance
Making sure your teen driver stays safe on the road is not always about driving. They also need to know what to do when a car breaks down or when they run over something in the road and get a flat tire. So take some time to show them some basic car maintenance so they can confidently get back on the road or know how to get help. Here’s a list of basics to teach them:
Checking air pressure — Make sure they know how to use an air pressure gauge and how to fill up the tires if they are low. Take them to an air pump at a gas station and show them how it’s done.
Oil and transmission fluid — Show them how to check the oil, clean the dipstick and dip it back into the oil to check the level. Of course, show them how to top it off if it is indeed low.
How to change a flat — You could explain how to do this, but they need to learn how much work it takes now. Have them remove one of the tires themselves using the jack and wrench, replacing it with the spare.
These are the very basics of car maintenance that they need to know. Make sure they know how to perform these tasks first, teaching them more advanced maintenance if you like later.
#6 Get Them the Right Kind of Vehicle
While you might want to treat your teen to a shiny new sports car — don’t! Sports cars have too much power and speed for a new teen driver, without a lot of road experience, to handle. On the other end of the spectrum, you want to avoid beater cars that lack modern safety features and could possibly break down on a highway. SUVs seem like a good idea, but they have a high center of gravity that can cause them to roll over in an accident. Ideally, a mid-size or full-size car with an anti-roll bar or sway bar installed is best.
Teach your teen good driving habits that will keep them safe. As the parent and someone with excellent driving skills, show them how it is done and lead by example. Use a car phone mount and drive free of distraction, be sure to buckle up and never drive under the influence, sending wrong and potentially harmful messages. And most of all — be patient!