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

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.

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.

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. http://www.streetsurvival.org/index.php

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

If I had one catch phrase to tell a young driver, it would have to be something like “wisdom only works if you choose to use it”. My worst driving happens when I deliberately choose against wisdom and for emotion.

I taught my two daughters to drive, along with driver’s ed. The things I emphasized after the basic car control were:

  1. Parking lots are dangerous! Seriously, people and cars are moving in all sorts of directions and you need to be watching for them everywhere. The speeds are low, so the consequences are usually minor fender-benders, but I’m sure there are more accidents in parking lots than anywhere else.

  2. Look way down the road. Think about what’s going on 1/4 mile or so ahead. You get many fewer surprises that way. Expect people to do dumb stuff and be ready for it.

  3. Keep driving the car! I always get annoyed by the phrase “the driver lost control.” What that almost always means is the driver gave up control. Maybe you are sliding and really can’t do anything, but you should keep trying because you can almost always have some effect on the car’s motion, and if not you can at least know that you tried everything you could.

I was very fortunate when my son was a teenage driver. He attended a military school for high school and took a driver training course while enrolled there. In the summer he lived with a relative and worked for the academy so I furnished a car. The military school experience helped him develop a sense of responsibility. When he drove my vehicle, a Ford Aerostar with a display that gave the average mpg, he would get a better average than I would get. As a college sophomore, he did an Appalachian semester and worked in a little mission. He had to drive 15 passenger vans on narrow mountain roads with steep drop-offs on either side and had children in the van. I rode with him once when he was transporting kids. He wouldn’t start the engine until every seat belt was fastened.

My only complaint about the driver education course is that they said nothing about vehicle maintenance. He knows how to replace a battery but that is about it. He is in his mid thirties and I still get calls about his automotive problems. It’s hard to give a definitive answer when he lives 350 miles from where I do.

During your first winter with snow. You’ve got to learn to drive in snow. For the first year or even two the first snowfall can throw you for a loop with either a couple of skiddings or an accident. Winter is an aquired driving skill.

This is the best piece of advice I got while learning to helm (steer) a sailboat. It is not quite that same (boats don’t have brakes) but does still apply to cars.
"If you can’t avoid a collision, steer to make it a glancing blow."
To date I have not had to use it, while sailing.
Cheers KiwiPhil

My son totaled his ONE MONTH old car a couple of years ago (the car his mother and I went further into debt to buy him). He was making a right hand turn and rear ended the vehicle in front of him. His excuse? He was looking for on-coming traffic on the street he was turning on to. The advice? Teens should watch where they’re going, not where they want to go. Yes, everyone was okay and my son became intimately familiar with airbags.

I got my driver’s license in the late 1950’s. My family didn’t have a lot of money and we knew that. My dad put me in charge of taking care of the family cars. I learned how to do some of the easier jobs–replacing the generator, carburetor or fuel pump as well as routine maintenance. For problems I couldn’t solve, I took the car to a shop. I learned a lot from talking with the service managers and mechanics. My dad bought a used Buick the year I started high school. It was the newest car we had owned–only 1 year old. I bought the car from him eight years later in my second year of graduate school. It had gone 120,000 miles at this time with no major repairs.

I was expected to be a responsible driver and maintaining the car helped give me a sense of responsibility. Growing up in the country, I had operated equipment in the fields, so I had a sense of what to do when I got a driver’s license. My parents trusted me and I didn’t want to let them down.

I tried to do the same thing with my own son. I trusted him to drive responsibly and he didn’t let me down. He doesn’t have a real interest in mechanical things, so he has never attempted repairs. However, he has never had an accident and he is now in his mid thirties.

Nope, if he was looking for oncoming traffic he was not looking where he wanted to go. The advice about looking where you want to go is mostly to do with avoiding “target fixation.” People can see some thing they know they want to avoid and will start to stare at that thing and the car tends to go where the driver is looking.

Your son was probably turning right and looking left. That’s not where he wanted to go, but wasn’t where he should have been looking either.

My daughter, “Crash Cathy,” had 10 accidents before she was 18 years old. I couldn’t afford to send her to the Bondurant Teenage school, so I took her to a Porsche Club driving school (no, I don’t have a Porsche) for a two-day class. By the second day, she had her Contour sideways every lap coming out of Turn 16 at Heartland Park in Topeka, KS, and she hasn’t had an accident since. That was so successful, I took my son, Rob, to a BMW driving school at Road America and he, too, hasn’t had any accidents. These schools are relatively cheap ($200 to $400), available at a track near you, and you use your own car.