Is your child getting behind the wheel? Hank McKensey has a few tips for you.
So your teenager is ready to drive? First, take a few deep breaths. This is not an easy transition for any parent. In addition to promoting even more independence, letting your child get behind the wheel of a car can be frightening. If your child is about to get their license and drive unsupervised for the first time, here are a few things you can do to make sure they are as safe and secure as possible when out on the road:
Set Ground Rules:
One of the most important steps you can take to ensure that your child is safe in the car is to talk to them and set ground rules before you allow them to drive alone. Encourage your child to follow the safety rules and let them know they will lose driving privileges if they don’t abide by them.
Items you may wish to discuss could include the use of seatbelts by themselves and all passengers in the car, the use of a cellphone while driving, and the volume of the music playing. Every person in the car should always wear their seatbelt when the car is moving. If your child has a cellphone, let them know that they should not talk, text or play on their phone while they are driving. If they need to make a call or send a text, ask them to pull over.
Every year hundreds of teenagers are killed or seriously injured because they text on their cellphone or they fail to wear their seatbelts. You may also consider having your child take a defensive driving course to help them prepare for other drivers who may not be so diligent in following the rules!
Even if you trust your teen, it’s a good idea to monitor their driving. In addition to giving you an idea of what areas they may need to refocus on, utilizing some of these tools can actually reduce your insurance rate! There are a variety of cellphone applications that allow you to see if your teen driver is speeding or breaking other driving rules, but a few I recommend are:
Canary — Like the historic canary in a coal mine, Canary raises an alarm to parents and sends them immediate alerts when their teens are texting, talking on the phone or using social media while on the road. This app is available on both Android and iOS.
DriveCam — Consisting of a 2-way camera and a video feedback program, DriveCam enables parents to stay connected with their teen’s driving in a positive way. The camera only records when it senses sharp movements, such as slamming on the brakes, and will send the video and audio footage directly to the parent’s email account.
Auto SMS — Only available on Android, this app can automatically respond to incoming text messages when your teen is behind the wheel. Have your teen open the app prior to their departure and any texts received during their drive can be sent an automatic response such as, “Sorry, I’m driving right now.”
In addition to smartphone apps, consider getting a Saint Frances pendant or another memento to remind your child to drive safe. I really love the saying from the Guardian Angel Visor Clip found here, “never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.”
Pack an Emergency Kit:
Include an emergency kit in the trunk of your car. A good emergency kit should include flairs, a flashlight, orange flags to hang on the car (in case the car breaks down and there is fog, snow or rain), water, granola bars and a blanket. Also make sure the spare tire is in working condition, the jack is fully functioning and be sure to toss in a pair of jumper cables!
If your teen will be driving an older car, it may be wise to include a small bin with extra oil and power steering fluid that is easily accessible.
Check the Tires:
While you may have had the car serviced and washed before the big day, one thing to keep in mind is tire pressure and tread. You can make sure the tires on the car are safe in seconds. Grab a penny from the change jar and insert it into a tread on the tire. Try this in several different grooves. If you can always see the top of Lincoln’s head, the tires are worn. If the penny consistently goes in far enough to hide his head, your tires are fine.
Take a few minutes to make sure your teen is prepared for safe driving and you’ll rest at least a little easier the first time they pull out of the driveway on their own.
Photo credit: State Farm/flickr