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Tips for Young Drivers… and their Parents

Our expert helps you offset inexperience at the wheel By ,

Young drivers who have just obtained their driver’s permit (or are in the process of doing so) must ensure they’re diligent about obeying the rules of the road, and putting into practice all that they’ve learned during their driver’s education course.

Unfortunately, the number of road accidents involving young drivers remains far too high, right across Canada. What’s more, this time of year―with its brusquely changing weather conditions, many of which young drivers may never have faced before―presents unique and difficult challenges.

Auto123.com called on an expert in the matter: Aline Albert, owner of an OK Tire retailer in Laval near Montreal, and the mother of a teen who has just started to drive. She has some relevant and wise advice for young drivers… and their parents.

Before hitting the road
To begin with, if mom and dad are going to lend the family car to their teen, it’s essential to sit down together and agree on when and how to use it. For example, define clearly whether it can be used to go to school, how many friends can climb aboard, and when it has to be back in the driveway. If son or daughter has their own car, “remind them that driving carries with it responsibilities, with all sorts of related fees to pay like insurance, registration, gasoline and maintenance, but also laws and principles that need to be respected, such as during which hours the car can be parked on the street, or what the zero tolerance policy is all about,” explains Mrs. Albert.

On that subject, it goes without saying that it’s essential to discuss the dangers and consequences of drinking and driving, of using the cell phone while at the wheel and of the many other possible factors that can distract drivers. Her advice for parents? Always be available to go and pick up your teen at the end of a night out, or at least make sure that there’s a designated driver in their group. She admits, “I’d rather get woken up at 2 a.m. by my daughter who needs a taxi than by the police bearing tragic news.”

On the road
Safety at the wheel goes far beyond just the drive; attention should be paid to the levels of gas in the tank, wiper fluid in the reservoir and air in the tires (the car’s only contact point with the road, lest we forget!). Are the headlights on and working properly? Are the dashboard messages indicating anything untoward? And of course, a periodic mechanical inspection of the vehicle is strongly recommended.

According to Aline Albert, parents of new drivers should be accompanying them as often as possible on outings to encourage and monitor them so they adopt a good driving position, good techniques and a responsible attitude when behind the wheel. “This is especially important as the season changes,” she says. “Days get shorter and the road surface gets colder and colder. A lot more vigilance is needed, because reaction times are slower and braking distances shorter.”

Mrs. Albert wants young people to remember that operating a vehicle in autumn or winter is much different than during the summer, when most people do their driving lessons, it should be added. She advises them to practice in a large, empty parking lot, with an experienced driver at their side, especially to learn how to control sliding situations. Even better, there are advanced driving courses available that help motorists learn how to handle different situations.

Finally, let's go back to the matter of the cell phone, which has become a virtual extension of most teens’ bodies. Our expert relates that her daughter uses it as a GPS when driving, but that otherwise “the phone should remain turned off or tucked away during the whole drive.” When it comes to risks posed by cell-phone distraction among young drivers, the numbers, sadly, don't lie.