Many young drivers are ill-prepared for the challenges of independent driving – but parents can help.
Teenage drivers have it harder
Young drivers, a demographic including adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 20, constitute 5.4 percent of all licensed drivers in the US. This means that there are some 11.8 million teenagers ready to hit the road.∗ And many of them will do so, and often, in the months to come. With summer vacations in full swing, youths have more time on their hands and many of them will spend a considerable amount of behind the wheel. Some will drive just for fun, others will commute each day for their summer jobs.Many of those young drivers will probably be getting their first car this year. Some lucky teens may receive a car as a graduation gift from a parent or grandparent but many will make this purchase on their own and chances are that what a teenager will be able to afford will be an older or badly maintained vehicle. For teenagers, having a car can be the first step into the world of independence and adulthood and parents have a role to play in teaching their child basic driving safety and responsibilities as well as vehicle maintenance and repairs because the sad truth is that each year, more teens die in car crashes than from any other cause(http://exchange.aaa.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/AAA-Does-Your-Teen-Need-A-Car.pdf). Part of the reason being that young drivers are far more likely than adult drivers to engage in risky behaviors, such as driving while intoxicated or driving while distracted.(https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/teen_drivers/teendrivers_factsheet.html).Established consensus in the scientific community says that this is because, in a teenage brain, areas responsible for control, planning, and reasoning are not fully mature yet(https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/your-teens-brain-driving-without-the-brakes/). Thus, parental control and support will play a crucial role in helping a young driver to stay safe during this summer as well as all year round. But what exactly parents should teach their children when it comes to car safety? This article will present some practical points and ideas.
Be a good role model
Open the hood together
- read different car dashboard warning lights – this is another way of ensuring that problems are identified before they become severe
- check fluid levels – a teenager should be able to not only locate, for example, the oil dipstick but also know to park the car on level ground and wait about an hour for the engine to cool down before performing the test
- check tire pressure – apart from being a maintenance issue, it is also a safety one; for example, according to a study performed by NHTSA, vehicles with tires underinflated by 25% are three times more likely to be involved in a tire-related crash; a young driver should know different factors that affect tire pressure, such as temperature or driving distance, how to use a tire pressure gauge, and how to respond to different pressure readings
- change the oil – this procedure significantly prolongs the engine’s lifetime and should be performed every 3,000 – 5,000 thousand miles. Young drivers should be taught to keep track of when their last oil change was, and know when to either make an appointment for their next one or learn to change the oil themselves.
- change a tire – it is not too difficult to imagine a scenario where a young driver gets stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire, a dead battery in their mobile phone, and no means to call road service – in such a situation being able to change a tire is an essential skill