When your teen turns 16, they’ll be eager to get behind the wheel. Learning how to operate a vehicle is only part of what they need to know to become responsible drivers, so here are eight more important lessons for your soon-to-be driving teen.
Budgeting for a car. If your teen is interested in buying their first car, this is a great opportunity to teach them how to budget. Explain to them that they’ll need to plan for car payments, insurance, gas, maintenance and repairs. Find out how they expect to pay for all those costs, and ask them to do research on cars in their price range. You don’t need to do any of the work for them - just be there to answer their questions and gently point out any flaws in their plan.
Saving on insurance. Even if you’re just adding your teen to your current insurance plan, involve them in the process so they’ll be ready to do it on their own when the time comes. For example, show them how you search for an insurance quote online, and explain what factors you consider when choosing a plan.
Managing routine maintenance. Whether your teen has their own car or not, you can teach them about the importance of routine maintenance. You could involve them in scheduling regular oil changes, checking tire pressure, replacing your air filter and rotating your tires.
Handling simple repairs. Afraid you’re not handy enough to teach your teen about simple repairs? They’re probably familiar with watching YouTube tutorials, so you can use this as an opportunity for you both to learn something new. Start easy and learn how to replace your windshield wipers.
Putting down the phone. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) recently reported that distracted driving was the deadliest driving behaviour in 2017. In addition to explaining the legal consequences of distracted driving, give your teen strategies to avoid the problem, such as turning their phone off when they’re behind the wheel.
Planning a night out. Your 16 year old is too young to drink, but that doesn’t change the scary fact that young people are more likely to die in crashes involving drugs and alcohol. While you can try to deter this bad behaviour with harsh punishments, it’s also important for your teen to know they can call you for a ride if they’ve been drinking or doing drugs. MADD Canada has more advice for parents who want to prevent impaired driving.
Handling a traffic stop. Hopefully your teen will model good driving behaviour every time they get behind the wheel, but it’s likely that they’ll get pulled over at least once. Talk with them about appropriate behaviour during a traffic stop, such as pulling over immediately, staying in the car unless told otherwise, following the police officer’s instructions, and remaining calm and polite.
Reacting to an accident. Again, you hope your teen never has to deal with this scenario, but they should be properly prepared to manage the aftermath of an accident. Walk them through who to call - you, 911 in an emergency, and the police if there is over $2000 in damages or someone is injured. Prepare them to collect all the information they’ll need for an insurance claim and advise them not to make any decisions without your input (like settling with another driver at the side of the road, or choosing a mechanic). Most importantly, let them know that you’ll be available to support them after an accident - even if you’re disappointed.
While you should sit down and teach your teen these lessons, remember that they’ll learn best if you also model this behaviour. You can’t expect your teen to follow advice that you won’t take yourself!