It can be hard enough for a new teen driver to master all the skills necessary to stay safe on the road under the best of conditions, but it can be even more difficult when the weather turns bad. Winter conditions can challenge even the most experienced drivers. It is incumbent upon a parent to prepare a teen as best as possible for driving under those difficult circumstances that adverse weather brings.
During winter, the weather can change for the worst in a matter of minutes, which can be difficult for a new driver to adjust to safely. Letting teens know how differently a car will handle in bad weather and how the vehicle should be maintained is important.
Before getting in the car:
- Pack a small first aid kit and keep it in the trunk in the case the car becomes stuck. The kit should include a flare, flashlight, blanket and a few energy bars.
- In addition to the first aid kit, the car should have a small bag of sand or kitty litter and a shovel. The sand or kitty litter can be used to provide traction under the tires if the vehicle gets stuck.
- Check the road conditions before heading out in order to know which routes or areas to avoid if possible. Many state departments of transportation now provide real-time updates of road conditions.
- Make sure the teen knows to leave extra time to get to where they are going. If road conditions are bad, traffic will be slower. Even experienced drivers should not try to outdrive traffic during bad weather.
- Clear all snow and ice from the windshield and windshield wipers in order to provide good visibility.
- When there is snow or ice, gently test the brakes when appropriate to find out the condition of the roads. Make sure no one else is around and do not hit the brakes hard.
- Always maintain at least three cars lengths away from the vehicle directly in front of your car. A car may skid when on snow or ice, making a rear-end collision more likely if traveling too closely.
- If it is snowing at night, it can be tempting to use the high beam headlights, but the low beams actually provide better illumination in snow.
- Do not use the cruise control when driving in snow or ice. If a hidden patch is hit, the tires could lose traction but continue spinning at the same speed. Once they re-establish themselves, the car may begin to spin out.
- Be sure to brake, accelerate and turn slowly when snow or ice are on the road. Quick movements increase the possibility of losing control.
- Limit the teen’s experience driving in winter conditions to daytime hours. It also wouldn’t hurt to have them practice when conditions are minor.
Knowing what to expect during winter weather will help a teen remain safe while traveling. Being prepared—behind the wheel and in case an emergency occurs—is critical.
This author, Claire Atkinson, also writes about safe winter driving here.