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Thu, Feb 29, 2024 06:20
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Teen Drivers--Oh my!

All of us who drive have done stupid things behind the wheel from time to time. I can say yes to that.  What’s made headlines recently have been inexperienced young drivers who have done dumb things and gotten themselves killed in the process.  I think losing a child is the worst experience a parent can have.  So I’ve done some thinking about this teen driving situation and developed some conclusions.

Teens are probably going to do dumb things behind the wheel.  When they do, they need to have good equipment so that the car won’t fail in an emergency.  They also need training other than just driving around.  Here’s my check list.

First, teens should have the safest car his or her parents can afford.  Translation: A newer model with the latest safety features, such as side impact air bags, and good safety ratings from sources like crash test results and Consumer Reports.  Clarification: Your old 1978 Camaro doesn’t qualify.  Save it for weekend jaunts to car shows or the drag strip.

Second, before getting behind the wheel alone, teens should be taught basic safety skills. One of these is changing a tire.  Learn how yourself first, then teach them and make them show you.  If you are a member of an auto club like AAA or Shell, be sure your teen driver has the account # and the emergency numbers for roadside assistance.  I’d keep them in the glove box with the vehicle registration and proof of insurance.

Third, tires are the most vulnerable piece of equipment on a vehicle. Drivers should know the car manufacturer recommended tire pressures and how to check each tire.  The recommendations are usually on a sticker on one of the door jams.

Three cautions:  1. Many times front and rear pressures are different.  2.  The pressure on the tire sidewall is not the car manufacturer recommended pressure.  These are the maximum pressures the tires can withstand, a big difference.  And 3.  Be sure the tire size on the vehicle is the same as that listed on the door jam sticker.  If not, you need to do some research on equivalent pressures & load handling capabilities. Dare I say speedometer calibration check?

Speaking of big tires, oversized wheels and tires have drawbacks.  Large wheels bend more easily.  Think the pot hole commercial.  Large wheels are usually heavier than stock wheels so that the rolling inertia is greater.  This means they accelerate slower (a good thing?) and take longer to stop (a bad thing).  Finally, properly specified oversized tires have a narrower sidewall that stock tires.  This means there is less give to the tire which makes for a rougher ride.  And there is almost nothing you can do to make any of this better.

Tire pressures should be checked monthly or more often if the outside temperatures are dropping.  Usually a local tire shop will do this for free, especially if you bought the tires from them.  Just drive in and ask.

Donut spares need up to 60 psi of air and can go flat quickly in the trunk. So check the spare also.  And unlike your regular tires, a donut spare usually has its recommended pressure written boldly on the sidewall ... along with a speed limit!

I mentioned to a friend that I was writing this article.  He’s a car nut too and suggested adding a paragraph on selecting infant and toddler car seats.  Evidently there are big differences in the safety performance of car seats and price may not be the determining factor.   My friend did his own research and bought seats that met the highest insurance industry standards.  So if you are in the market for a car seat or booster, do your homework first.

In closing a true story.  An acquaintance owned a beautiful 2003 Mercedes SL 500 AMG convertible.  It had double oversized 20” chrome wheels and tires properly sized to keep the speedo accurate.  They looked awesome.  However, the owner really didn’t like the car because it road like a bad truck, jarring with every bump in the road.  She asked another friend in the car business to sell the car, so he took it on consignment.  He too hated the car’s ride and so did one prospective customer.  So he bought factory replacement 18” chrome wheels & tires.  The owner drove the car with 18’s and fell back in love with it, taking it off the market.  My car guy lost a $28,000 sale but everyone learned a lesson.

Go Army – Beat Navy.

Gene Canavan is a retired West Point Graduate and Paper Mill Utilities Manager and lives in Prattville, Alabama, USA


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