Written by: John Wood: Blogger, grease monkey, father
Your durable old car can serve as a cool new set of wheels for your teen, provided you take steps to ensure they both stay as safe as possible. Before you hand over the keys, make sure you do three things: Get the vehicle in teen-friendly shape, explain proper vehicle maintenance to your child and lay some ground rules for driving.
Give Your Car a Safety Makeover
Depending on how mechanically inclined you are, you can either inspect the vehicle yourself or have a mechanic do it. Check the follow elements:
- Brakes (including the parking brake)
- Exhaust system components, such as the muffler
- Suspension and steering components, such as steering wheel and box, springs, shocks and front-end suspension
- Windows and windshield wipers
- Rear-view and side mirrors
- Lighting system, including headlights, hazard lights, turn signals, reverse lights and reflectors
- Tires and wheels
- Belts and fluids
- Bumpers, fenders, fuel tank and fuel tank cap
- Seat belts and airbags
Repair or replace anything as necessary. Top of the list should be a new set of quality tires, as tires with worn tread or degraded rubber can cause a blowout on the road. You can get a new set of General tires at TireBuyer.com.
Teach Proper Maintenance
Once you go over the vehicle safety checklist with your teen, hand over the maintenance reins. Your teen should be in charge of ensuring the car is well-maintained, including taking care of scheduled oil changes, tire rotations and other services as needed. Make things easier on both of you with a free app like MyCarFax, which keeps track of all your maintenance records and sends reminders when services are due.
Lay the Ground Rules
Create a written agreement, signed by both you and your teen, which outlines the rules for driving and the consequences for breaking them. Several rules suggested by SaferCar.gov include:
- Always wear a seat belt.
- No speeding. Speeding was a contributing factor in 35 percent of deadly crashes involving teens in 2011.
- No phones. Distracted driving is hazardous for people of any age, and texting is particularly dangerous since it takes at least one hand off the wheel and your mind and eyes off the road.
- No passengers without your permission. The more the scarier, SaferCar.gov notes, as each additional passenger increases the likelihood of a crash.
- No drinking. Even though teens are not yet old enough to drink, drivers in the 15-20-year-old age group have a higher risk of fatal crashes involving alcohol than legal-drinking-age adults.
Learn about your state’s graduated driver licensing law, too. GDL laws extend teens’ learning time, so they can gain more experience behind the wheel before receiving a license that enjoys full privileges.