Every year we talk to new teen drivers about safety behind the wheel. Every year it gets more and more difficult to impress upon the kids the importance of not driving distracted. But to beat a dead horse, here are some thoughts that may help you with your own teen drivers.
1. Safety checks. Someone needs to conduct a frequent safety check of teens' vehicles. I don't care who. All lights must work including all brake lights and turn signals. Seat belts must function. Vehicles 10 years and older should have their air bags checked by a dealer or specialist. If a teen forgets, someone else should do it. This isn't a time to split hairs like you would or could for cleaning their room, taking out the garbage, or doing homework. It's infinitely more important.
2. Biggest single safety issue is tire pressure. Many cars today have tire pressure monitoring systems. Many do not. The teen needs to know that the recommended pressures are listed on a sticker on the driver's side door jam. These vary greatly among vehicles. My own cars range from 33 psi to 44 psi. Some have differences between the front and back tires. So looking at the sticker is very important. Some vehicles have custom or oversized wheels and tires. If these are larger than the factory tires, then the wheel/tire installer must tell you what pressures the tires should be. Failure to follow these instructions could lead to an under inflated tire. Under inflation leads to heat buildup which leads to a blowout.
3. Tire condition. New tires have the best wet traction and the worst dry traction on the road. As a tire wears, these two conditions gradually swap. At the end of a tire's life, it has the best dry traction and the worst wet traction. At the extreme are NASCAR racing tires. They have no tread at all. They are slick. This gives them the best possible dry traction. But any water at all and the cars slide off the track. This is why races are stopped at the first sign of rain.
4. I've told our Drivers' Education class that when they have others in their vehicle, they should feel like they have their lives in their hands. It's their responsibility whether everyone in the car lives or dies. If they don't have that feeling, they should never transport anyone.
5. Seatbelts are the law in Alabama. Yet two weeks ago here, a young mother hit another car head on. She didn't have her seatbelt on. She died. Gone. Leaving a husband and a two year old and leaving the friend of ours whom she hit a lifelong sad and painful memory. I've told our Driver's Ed kids that they don't start their vehicle until all passengers are buckled up, period. Front seat. Back seat. No exceptions. Also check the laws in your state about young drivers having passengers. Alabama has them I know.
6. Buckling in small children and infants is a very specialized exercise. I know our daughter went through an exacting investigation for her first child to get the right seating system. Having teens transport infants should not be done without close supervision, at least until they have the specifics down 100%. Checking the laws in your state is applicable here also.
I'll close with this foreboding thought. Rural two lane secondary roads have a significantly higher accident risk per driven mile than interstate highways. Staying alert behind the wheel is important but none more so than on that two lane 55 mph road getting to your house. Think about it.
Gene Canavan is a retired West Point Graduate and Paper Mill Utilities Manager and lives in Prattville, Alabama, USA.