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5 Things Your Kid Should Know BEFORE Getting in a Car With a Teen Driver

By on June 22, 2015
Driver takes the car key

Perhaps the only thing more terrifying than seeing your own teen behind the wheel is sending your kids off with someone else’s teen behind the wheel. Like it or not, the day will come.

The first time I was allowed to drive my best friend to our favorite ice cream place just five short miles away, my parents made me promise not to talk to her until we arrived at our destination. A nearly impossible request, as this friend was quite the talker, but I honored it because I was the type of kid who never disobeyed.

Maybe my parent’s extreme rule isn’t practical, but it’s certainly wise to have a conversation with your kids before they ride with a younger driver – be it the babysitter, your neighbor’s son, or their cool teenage cousin. Not all teen drivers are reckless, lead-footed, texting maniacs, but this fact remains: they’re inexperienced, and they’ve got your precious cargo in tow.

Prepare your kids to be the good kind of “backseat driver” by teaching them to ask their chauffeur these important questions:

1. Do you have enough gas?

And if the answer is, “Hmmm … not sure…” or “The light’s not on yet, no worries!” a few follow-up questions would be in order: If the tank is close to empty, do you have cash or a debit/credit card to fill it up? And is there a gas station close by to where we’re going? Being stranded by the side of the road shouldn’t be part of the trip.

2. Are you alert and awake?

Driving requires your full attention, whatever time of day the driver is behind the wheel. Drunk driving, buzzed driving, distracted driving, driving while tired – unfortunately, there are probably a number of people on the road at any given time who are driving this way – all the more reason for your child’s driver to be at his/her best behind the wheel.

3. Have you checked your tires lately?

This might be a question for the driver’s dad or mom, but before the rubber meets the road, find out if there is sufficient tread and air pressure in the wheels.

4. Is your car reliable?

Your child may be driving with the most alert, most highly responsible, speed-limit-conscious teen driver out there, but if her vehicle is faulty, there could be major problems on the road beyond her control.
Many teens drive older, used cars for the affordability factor, and that’s fine. There are certainly many older, used cars that are safe and reliable. However, if the brief history of the car is “it breaks down every other time I go for a drive,” your child may want to make other transport arrangements.

5. Will you honor the speed limit?

Over the years, I’ve driven with all types, and I’ve never had a problem saying, “Hey, could you slow down a bit?” if I felt uncomfortable (although there were times that the other passengers were talking above me or the music was too loud for the driver to hear). Encourage your kids to speak up when they sense the driver is a little too heavy on the gas.

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