Teen Driving

There comes a time in nearly every parent's life when they have to do the unthinkable: hand over the keys to the family vehicle to their teenage son or daughter.

Hopefully the teenager has been through a qualified driver education program by this point and have logged some road hours. But even if they have driven with you (white-knuckled) in the passenger seat, going it alone is a whole new ballgame. Before they hit the road, talk to your kids about your expectations of their driving and proper automobile maintenance. Set ground rules. Establish good driving habits early and it can save you and yours money, head- and heartache down the road. It may not be as intimidating as the "birds and the bees" talk, but it can be just as important.

Here are some idea starters and suggestions for bridging the driving generation gap:

  • Walk your kids through the Owner's Guide. Make a quiz game out of it with gas money as the prize, for example. It doesn't have to be dry reading, but it is crucial that they understand thoroughly the vehicle they'll be piloting.
  • Explain the concept of maintenance. Kids should understand that a car cannot "just drive forever" if it's not properly maintained. It will save you (or them) time and money in the long run. A well-maintained car is a safe car, too.
  • Set up a gameplan for emergencies or accidents. She should know what to do in case of an accident, break-in, road rage situation or breakdown. Who should she call if you are not home? Does she have the number to your service center? Does she carry a cell phone for just such an occasion?
  • Take your driving-age child to the family service center. Introduce them to the mechanics. (Heck, have them look at a sample invoice for mechanic services if you really want to scare them!)
  • Build a roadside emergency kit together.
  • Find a good driver's education book. There are a lot of them on the market. Read the chapter on "Defensive Driving." Twice.
  • When driving with your teenager, point out major thoroughfares, landmarks and street patterns. Learning these early can mean the difference between lost and found.
  • You may not be ready for your teen to be behind the wheel, but you can help make sure they're as ready as can be.