Winter weather can make driving dangerous for even the most experienced drivers, so it’s no wonder, as a parent, you’re concerned about putting your teenager behind the wheel in less than ideal conditions. And there’s good reason for concern: Bad weather plays a role in 22 percent of total car crashes and at least 15 percent of crash fatalities. Safe winter driving is possible with preparation and practice.
If your teen has no experience navigating wintery roads, keep them off the road until you can give them some practice in a controlled environment, like an empty parking. Practice will help them get a feel for the car’s steering, gripping and braking on slick pavement so they will better understand how to adjust when they’re on the open road. In addition to hands-on driving experience, here are five ways to prepare your teen for winter driving.
1. Keep a Cold Weather Emergency Kit in the Car
Help your teen create an emergency kit that they can keep in the car. Items might include blankets, flashlight, flare, jumper cables, snacks and water, a small shovel, portable phone charger and hand warmers. Additionally, make sure they have the number to a roadside assistance service programmed into their phone.
2. Remove All Snow from the Car Before Driving
Teens in a hurry might be inclined to just scrape snow off the windows and get on the road. But that’s not guaranteed to safeguard them from visibility. Instead, encourage your teen to remove all snow on their vehicle’s exterior before driving. Headlights and taillights also need to be visible to other drivers and can play a crucial role when conditions take a turn for the worse. Furthermore, left behind snow on the hood and roof can fly off and hinder visibility for your teen and other drivers. Finally, have them check that the exhaust pipe is clear of snow to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
3. Perform a Thorough Maintenance Check
Routine maintenance becomes more important in poor weather. Have your teen check their fluids before driving, ensuring, in particular, that their windshield wiper fluid is topped off. Likewise, make sure the vehicle’s tires are properly inflated and in good condition. If the tread looks worn, consider replacing the tires altogether. Low tread or bald tires are especially dangerous on slick roads.
4. Ensure the Gas Tank is at least Half Full
Most teens will let their gas tanks run until they are completely empty, but stress the importance of a full tank when winter weather conditions are bad. That’s because there’s always the possibility of being caught in stopped traffic, or worse, getting stranded during bad weather. With that in mind, instruct your teen to always keep their gas tank above half in the winter.
5. Review Other Important Winter Driving Tips
- Increase your following distance: When on the road, especially in icy conditions and during inclement weather, remind your teen to give cars in front of them more than enough space to allow for extra braking distance and skidding.
- Decrease speed: Driving at slower-than-normal speeds may be necessary, because stopping, accelerating and turning all take longer in the snow. Also, keep in mind that other traffic will be moving slower than usual.
- Watch for stopped vehicles: Be on the lookout for stranded cars, slow-moving snow plows and emergency vehicles.
- Watch for ice on bridges: Bridges, shaded areas and overpasses will freeze before other parts of the road. Thus, these areas are more prone for accidents, so make sure to travel slowly through these areas.
- Avoid using cruise control: It should be commonsense, but steer clear of using cruise control when the roads are wet to prevent sliding.
- Keep your headlights on: Always keep your headlights on, even during the daytime, so other drivers can see you.