Join the Car Talk Community!

Discussion Rules

Welcome to the Car Talk Community!

Want to ask a question or join the discussion? Great! Join now.

Sign In Register

Teen Drivers

Is there anything more terrifying than the idea of your kid piloting a few thousand pounds of steel?

If you're a teen who's about to start driving, can you think of anything more fun than getting behind the wheel for the first time?

The fact is, launching a new driver out onto the highways and byways is a challenging right of passage for both teens and parents. We know -- we've been there, on both sides of the fence.

We hope our teen driver area is useful, whether you're a first-time driver or a concerned parent.

We firmly believe that one of the best resources is the advice and guidance of those who have come before. That's where you come in. What was your experience? What suggestions do you have, to make this step on the road to adulthood a bit less traumatic for all concerned? Share your thoughts right here -- we'd like to hear from you.

Tom and Ray
Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers


  • edited March 2009
    I support any attempt to help.

    One tip I didn't see that i think is crutial is to leave plenty of room between you and the car in front of you. Unexpected things happen fast on the roads and most inexpereionced drivers (and many experienced drivers) need much more time to react than they think they do.

    I used to tell my daughter when she was learning that she'd see at least one senseless act or one unexpected event every time she drove. Then every time we went out driving I'd show her one. If dhe drove twice a day every day that would amount to well over 700 opportunities for an accident every year. We need to leave plenty of time to react every single moment of every single trip.
  • edited March 2009
    I've launched 5 teen drivers, + 1 that wouldn't pay attention. Guess which one had the most issues?

    My brothers (who both studied engineering) were "car guys" and from them I learned a lot of basics. I was 5 years younger and was the "tool fetcher" and sometimes little hands come in handy. My kids grew up with some basic knowledge of cars passed down from me. Due to divorce and remarriage I got a new group of kids to mentor who were "clueless" about cars. So, I had to teach them.

    Car "sense" is native to some and foreign to others. Yet, everyone needs the basics of oil; what it does, how to check it, and the importance of changing it. What coolant does and how to check it and the importance of changing it. What the gauges mean and which lights are "stop" lights when they come on. When something doesn't feel right, or sounds different don't ignore it; investigate it.

    There's so much more, but my son (new driver since 8/08 17 year old) is taking a 2 hour trip to Philly. Before he goes I plan a few minutes to give the car a pre-trip check. Which he will discount and be in a hurry to get going, but it will happen because I don't plan on replacing a seized engine in a 2000 Camry anytime soon.
  • edited March 2009
    Real Driver training should be mandatory. The "normal" schools do not teach car control. If I had a teen they would be going to this school.

    I took my nephew to an empty parking lot. He practiced panic stops, getting front tires on the stripes (car placement practice) and getting a feel for the car away from traffic.. His biggest problem was not look down the road. Looking just over the hood makes it too late to avoid a situation. He also tended to follow the car in front of him. As I learned in racing, not looking thru or past the car in front of you can make you follow their off/accident.

    Come winter take your teen to a snow covered lot and practice skids. Just pull up on the parking brake(if equip) and let them get out of it.

  • edited March 2009
    My Father teaching me to drive was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. It really put a different perspective on his influence in my life. It was presented with "watch and listen,soon you will be alone and I won't be there to back you up,you need to act responsibility".

    My input is that teaching your children to drive is a unique time to get to know each other. I never thought I would be able to drive as well as my Father,that was a unreachable level,or so I thought at the time. I never caused a accident,even a minor one so he must have taught me well and I did listen.

    As a mechanic I have seen many people both young and very young pick up their new cars and days later that car is in the body shop. I can't explain this,myself I would not put this property in any danger,it must come from the way some people treat things that they don't have to work for,a concept we all know about.
  • edited March 2009
    Every learner should need to sit throught the presentation that I and a class did once in 1971 back in Wooster Ohio. When the seminar was over and we went to our cars, we were damn near scared to even put the thing in drive at all. ( we had already begun the standard driving class in school and our egos had us feeling like we had it down. )

    The class was presented by the state police accident scene PHOTOGRAPHER ! . Yep, you got it, The most eye-popping, graphic, 'scared strait' experience every driver should see. Complete with a reaction time demonstration using a $20 bill ( this is 1971 ) dangled between your open finger tips ( thumb & first finger open about 3" ) by the speaker and dropped by him at random. "If you can catch it you can keep it." Out of thirty people in the room he gave out only one $20 bill.

    This was a most valuable part of learning the automobile for the MACHINE that it is that every learner must get early on. Along with learning mechanical function and maintainance, and driving operations like winter, skids, trailer, and stopping distance that re-shapes your sub-concious approach to driving from day one.

    Learners must realize the MACHINE they are operating from the git-go. It's not the living room furniture like it feels inside. It's not their personal sound system. It's not a show-off clothing accessory nor party time. When they "get" this from the start then the rest makes logical sense as they learn.
  • edited March 2009
    Well, I'm glad I don't have any kids. I've got enough gray/white hair as it is, thank you.

    On one hand, 16 year olds shouldn't be let anywhere near a car. Mentally, they are still small children and are incapable of rational decision making. The human brain doesn't finish assembling itself until about age 25, and the last part to mature is the frontal cortex, where responsible decision-making, judgment, and balancing pros and cons is done.

    On the other hand, no one wants to raise the age of majority to 25, or even back to 21 (which was an excellent compromise). At some point, teens need to pick up driving experience while they're still in learning mode.

    What I would suggest is a very drawn-out schedule of supervision. No one should be allowed to solo until they're at least 18 and have 2 years of driving with a parent or legal guardian beside them. Teens are just too reckless by themselves (remember, they're invincible). Sure, this will be a hardship on the few teens who are very mature and responsible, as well as those who need to drive to a job. But face it, do teens really need the keys to drive to school every day, or drive to the mall to hang out? No! What they need is close supervision at all times, being carefully exposed to more and more challenging situations after they've mastered the basics. If I had teens, that's what I'd do.
  • edited March 2009
    As has been posted here before, knowing the rules of the road is huge. Following distances, right-of-way, merging, basic green,blue,brown signage, etc etc.

    Also instilling that driving the vehicle is the first priority. Not the phone, friends, radio, eating or anything else. Their lives are on the line and so are other drivers.

    Also educate them about the aftermath of accidents beside dealth or dismemberment. Things like lawsuits, garnishments and true lifelong effects of bad driving.
  • edited March 2009
    The best car for a new teen driver is one they buy with money they earned themselves..Four cylinder stick shift pick-ups are a good choice for a first vehicle. No pretense of "coolness" or "performance". Easy to repair, cheap to insure, relatively safe to drive. Since insurance will be a major expense, always investigate that side of the equation.
  • edited March 2009
    Teaching your kids to drive can be a great bonding experience if handled correctly. One of the best places I found to teach a teenager how to handle a car safely, is in a cemetery. Close quarters, constant attention required, a constant reminder of their mortality and no one gets upset when you scream.
  • edited March 2009
    Alot of great stuff in there, I love your show and appreciate the info,
    down side I have a teen in drivers ed, cripes it is hard enough getting her to listen to your show, and an improvement I might suggest is bigger bolder type and consice points. As I advise my secretaries take out every other word, make it more effective. example

    Tip #1: Drive Now. Talk Later.
    Don't drive, pull over and stop if you need to Talk or Text using cellphone!

    * Dialing a hand-held device (typically a cell phone) increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by almost 3 times, and talking or listening on a hand-held device by 1.3 times.
    * 62 percent of high school drivers say they talk on a cell phone while driving and 24 percent say that talking on a cell phone is safe. More than one in five admits to text messaging while behind the wheel.
    * Sources: NHTSA and VTTI, SADD/Liberty Mutual
    Then add a link to the fluff if they wish to contest the proposed idea.
This discussion has been closed.