So You Have a New Driver

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“So I almost got in an accident,” said the text from my 16-year-old, new driver. Those are fun texts to receive. I was visiting with a friend the other day who also has a new driver on the road. As her daughter was chauffeuring her around town, she casually said, “I hate 4-way stops. You have to pay attention.” While these conversations may cause ulcers, I have friends who have experienced worse with their new drivers. They’ve received phone calls, and the news wasn’t almost an accident, it was an accident. I’ve had a friend who lost her 15-year-old boy due to a driving accident on a highway. That’s it; they’re not driving, dating, or leaving the house until they’re 25.

Okay, since that’s not possible, what can we do as parents to ensure our new driver is safe?

Here are a few things to consider as we equip and empower our excited teens to merge into the driving world.

  1. What kind of vehicle should they drive?

There are technology options now available in new vehicles that will blow your mind! In an article written by Jennifer Jolly, host of USA TODAY’s digital video show TECH NOW, she highlights numerous tools, features, and applications that are now in new vehicles. “Ford’s MyKey system has all kinds of custom settings for parents, including volume limits for the radio — so your teen isn’t rocking out when they should be watching the road — a “Belt-Minder” that chimes and mutes the speakers until the buckles click, and includes top speed limits that prevent the car from topping 65, 70, 75, or 80 mph. All of which makes sense, especially when the CDC says teens have the lowest rate of seatbelt use of all drivers.”

Built-in emergency alerts, turning phones automatically to “do not disturb” while driving, driving reports sent to the parent’s smartphone, in-car settings that coach speed, volume control, braking speed, and other driving skills. That’s what technology has added for the safety of our new drivers.

For more info on these technological additions read this.

If driving a new vehicle is neither an option nor your preference, maybe it’s time for you to upgrade and give your kiddo the family car. Make their vehicle “big, slow, and ugly.” That’s the advice of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which encourages parents to consider safety features, size, style, crash-test ratings, and reliability reviews whenever it’s financially feasible. While the price tags and fuel economy of small cars are undeniably appealing, it’s the bigger, heavier vehicles that offer better protection in a crash compared to their compact counterparts.

  1. What do they need to know for emergency situations?

God forbid they ever need to use it, but they do need to know where the registration and insurance information is located, who to call, and what to do if they get into an accident, a tire is blown, or their car breaks down. Having these instructions written out and kept in an organized fashion in the glove compartment will give your kids the directions they need when they are flustered.

  1. What do they need to know and DO to take care of the vehicle?

My kids hate when I say this, but with more freedoms come more responsibilities. Now is a great time for real-life application of responsibility. Regular oil changes, filling the car with the right kind of gas, checking tire pressure, cleaning out the vehicle, washing the outside, checking brake, headlight, and tail lights, checking fluid levels, as well as fixing windshield wipers that aren’t wiping. Those are all simple and easy DIY maintenance responsibilities they can learn and take ownership of in this season of new freedoms.

  1. What are the ground rules for driving?

The first accident I was involved in was when I was in elementary school; a car full of teenagers hit us. The driver had a broken arm, a “Big Juan” drink (a gigantic, 48-ounce drink from a local restaurant), and three people in the front seat of his tiny vehicle. My mom had slowed down to check addresses in a neighborhood, and he was in too much of a hurry to wait for her, so he decided to drive around her (on a neighborhood street with no official passing lanes) while at the same time, my mom was turning left to pull into the driveway. Smash. How many friends are allowed in the car at one time? Is having food and drink ok? What about phone rules? Should the phone be put in the glove compartment or kept in their bag while driving, so they aren’t tempted by every ding and ping that comes through? Obviously, these rules could change as they become more experienced, but since the CDC says that teen drivers, ages 16 and 17 are 3 times more likely to get in a deadly collision, it’s safe to say more rules initially is better.

about the author…Jamie, the wife of her high school sweetheart and mom of 4 boys, has been in the fitness industry for 18 years. “Fuel the body, mobilize the soul” is her mission. Connect with Jamie on Facebook www.facebook.com/jamiebeeson1 or online at bit.ly/JamieBeeson

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s October 2018 issue.
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