Nobody plans on having car troubles, especially teenagers. They are the some of the most optimistic creatures when it comes to believing nothing bad can befall them, and therefore, also some of the least prepared to handle a situation should it arise. Here are a few tips on ways to help protect them this winter should a situation arise.
1. Put together a basic cold weather emergency car kit. This consists of a Rubbermaid or similar box filled with the essentials and kept in the trunk. The kit should include but is not limited to: Jumper cables, shovel, ice scraper, cat litter or sand to aid in gaining traction on slippery surfaces, also warm clothes (hats, gloves, boots and a jacket). You may not be able to get them to dress sensibly, but if they do have to spend time on the side of the road in freezing temperatures I guarantee even the most fashion conscious teen will don that old parka and moon boots to stay warm. A blanket to keep warm while inside of a stalled vehicle is also a good idea. There should always be a flashlight, extra batteries, and a basic first aid kit. You may also want to include foods such as energy bars, dried or canned fruits and nuts, and water.
2. You’ve heard the old phrase “Knowledge is power” right? Well, it applies here as well. The best thing we can do for our teens is to make sure they understand how to use the tools that are available to them in an emergency. Most cars still come with a jack and spare tire but it seems that many a teenager, and adult, have lost the archaic knowledge of their use, thus relegating these tools to the status of antiques. In just an afternoons time we can arm our children with all the knowledge needed to change a tire, put on tire wires, or jump start a car, provided we ourselves still maintain said knowledge. If we don’t, then perhaps it is time we learn to do these things ourselves, or pony up the money for AAA and a cell phone. Then hope that wherever they end up there is cell coverage.
3. For new drivers it is imperative that before taking to the road after that first snowfall or wintery mix they receive a refresher course on how to navigate icy, snow covered roads. Just because they made it through last winter doesn’t mean they will remember what to do in the event the car they are driving breaks traction and begins to slide. Also, if a newer car was purchased during the previous year, it may not handle the same as an older car, especially if the last vehicle was not equipped with ABS. This can make a considerable difference in how we brake when approaching a stop sign, not to mention in an emergency. Most driving schools offer refresher courses on winter driving and it may not be a bad idea to go with your teen, you may just learn something that could save your life.
4. If you don’t intend on taking that refresher course there are a few simple tips that everyone should know.
Maintain your vehicle. Good maintenance is important, questionable tire tread and a poorly running vehicle is a recipe for disaster. Check the battery, antifreeze, and belts and replace them before they have a chance to cause you trouble.
Give yourself extra time. It takes a lot more time to get where you are going when trying to negotiate icy or snow covered roads, plan ahead and leave a little earlier for work or school.
Go easy on the pedals. Slowly accelerating is the best way to get yourself out of a skid. When applying the brakes use a smooth light touch and pay attention, if you start to slide let off on the brake enough to allow time for the tires to gain traction. Then reapply the brakes gently, repeat this until coming to a stop. If your car is equipped with ABS it should do this for you, but if not this is the quickest and surest method for coming to a stop.
And finally, if you do lose traction and begin to slide, remember to look and steer where you want the car to go. I guarantee if you stare at the ditch, no matter how much you grimace and hope to gain control of your car, you will end up in that ditch or worse.
5. The last is the most obvious but probably the most overlooked. Most situations that occur in the winter can be avoided by simply avoiding bad driving conditions. If you don’t absolutely have to go out, stay home. The mall will still be there tomorrow, that movie will probably still be playing, and you will have a much better chance of reaching your destination if you give the road crews a chance to do their job.