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
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
- 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
- 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.