“Can I Drive Tonight?”

    Cover 5 Basics Before You Answer

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    I remember when it was time for my daughter to get her driver’s license. Like any other parent, I was concerned for her safety. She learned to drive in my wife’s large Suburban, so when we wanted to find a car for her to drive regularly, our goal was a dependable and safe vehicle. We picked a Volvo that we bought from our youth minister because Volvo seemed to always have good safety reports. Volvos are generally pretty dependable as well, although frankly, so are most vehicles today, if the driver takes the time to pay attention to its maintenance needs and any warning signs it may be showing. Just like people, the family pet, your boat, or most anything, you have to take care of your car’s needs and pay attention so you are aware of any symptoms of a developing problem. It’s important for teens to be aware not only of this, but also of a few other things when it comes to cars and driving.

    They do not have to like the car to drive it.

    Like most teens, your new driver will want a car (or truck) that their friends will think is cool and will envy. By nature, your child will not be thinking of safety and will definitely not even consider that there is a financial cost that goes along with having a car. She may not even think about the gas until the needle is low or she’s stranded on the side of the road. My opinion is this: safety and dependability first. If this can be achieved with something your child is happy to drive, then that will be a bonus. Remember, a car that is sleek, sporty, fast, or sounds good is not necessarily a good fit for an inexperienced driver. Of course, any vehicle (yes, even Grandma’s Pontiac) can get away from even the most experienced driver if pushed
    to its potential.

    The privilege of driving comes with a cost. 

    I am not saying that you should require your teen driver to share the cost of repairs when they first get their license. I am saying that there is a lot of value in teaching kids about the financial responsibility of owning a car. In the beginning, they have no reason to be thinking about the tags, the insurance, the annual maintenance and repairs, but these are some things they should know. With the seed planted, that may give your new driver a reason to think about how she can take care of the family car or the one that is hers to drive.

    Knowledge of cars is powerful.

    I think all drivers should have some understanding of their vehicle. Some basic knowledge of what makes the car go and what makes it stop can be valuable in understanding the importance of taking care of it. This information, a basic lesson if you will, should be readily available. Most car owners have a place that they go to for their car needs. I would suggest that you ask your regular shop if they will take some time and explain some of this what-makes-it-tick information to your new driver. If you are not familiar with a basic knowledge of your car, this might be something you and your new driver can do together.

    At the same time, another very valuable thing that you can do is to teach your new driver how to check the oil on the car. If you have the knowledge, you can also teach her how to check the different fluids under the hood. A lesson in checking the air in the tires could catch a flat before it happens. Even though tire pressure is monitored by the car’s computer on all new cars today, now is still a great time to teach the benefits of keeping air pressure correct, especially since air pressure that is either too low or too high will effect wear, tire integrity, and fuel mileage. Just in case it does happen, teaching your new driver how to change a flat tire is very important as well. Oh, and remember to include checking the air in the spare, you never know when you will need it.

    Keeping up with a car’s maintenance is key.

    If you take care of your vehicle, it will take care of you. Most car owners have a schedule they follow to maintain their car. This schedule may be the schedule the car manufacturer recommends or some variation of it. Share with your teen driver what you do to keep the family vehicles running well and dependably. If you are a do-it-yourself type of person, let your child help you or at least get her to watch what you do. You will be surprised the questions that will come up, just because she is probably seeing things for the first time. If you are someone that takes your ar to a shop, have your new driver come with you and go to the service counter to hear you explain what you want done or talk through any problems you might be experiencing with the vehicle.

    Warning signs are there for a reason.

    This is also a good time for you and your new driver to discuss the importance of paying attention to how the car is functioning. Even the best-built cars on the road and the ones that have been well maintained will have problems at some point. Most of the time, as a car starts to develop a problem it will give you some sort of warning. There may be a new noise heard, the brakes might feel a little different, or there may be a warning light on the dash. Whatever it is, the key is to pay attention to those warnings and then do something about it. This is good advice for a few reasons. It is my experience that a lot of the repairs that we do at our shop have become more costly because there was a delay in taking the car in for service. This is also a safety issue. No one wants to have safety compromised by a car that is not functioning properly. You want the car to go when you need it to go, and you want it to stop when you need it to stop. The last thing anyone wants is to be stuck on the side of the road, and for us parents, even worse is the thought of our teen being that someone.