Winter car

Driving in winter weather can be stressful no matter what level of experience you may have as a driver. But for teens, driving during the winter months for the first time can be really intimidating.

Let’s face it, their skills are mediocre at best, and their knowledge of inclement weather conditions is limited. But when you live in the Midwest, there isn’t much you can do to avoid dealing with winter weather.

As a parent you want to make sure your teens are taking as many precautions as possible and giving themselves every advantage in order to ensure they arrive safely at their destinations. As scary as it may seem, proper preparedness will go a long way to ease you and your teen’s worried minds.

This winter was the first time my daughters' — Abbey, 16, and Jaiden, 14 — drove in less than favorable conditions. Understandably they were both nervous, as they were aware of my own anxiety regarding the subject. But I didn’t want that to discourage them from getting used to the idea of driving during the winter months.

To help ease them into it, I came up with a few tips to help my teen drivers stay safe.

1. Take extra time. I always tell my girls if they must go somewhere to be sure they give themselves plenty of time to get there. Whether there is snow or ice on the roadways, leaving at least a few minutes early can help them stay relaxed because they have prepared for the possibility of a delay.

2. Reduce speed. When teens finally do get out on the roadways, there’s no need to drive at lightning speeds. When temperatures are low and precipitation is fresh, conditions may become increasingly more dangerous. It’s important teens take their time but are also aware that driving too slowly can be detrimental to other drivers as well. They will want to do their best to maintain a reasonable speed for the current conditions.

3. Pack an emergency kit. Even when just taking a short drive across town, having emergency supplies is important. This includes a car shovel, a fully charged phone, jumper cables, blankets and a few snacks in case they are stranded due to weather.

4. Make sure cars are ready for winter weather. Before heading out, teens should make sure their car has a full tank of gas and cold weather-friendly windshield washer fluid. Also, check the tires to make sure there is plenty of tread. Replace old and worn tires regularly to significantly decrease chances of sliding.

5. Increase following and braking distances. It’s always a good idea for teens to give themselves plenty of room to stop, but it’s even more important when weather conditions are poor. Following behind others too closely can make stopping difficult when ice and snow are present. It's also important teens remember to apply brakes slowly and with constant pressure to avoid sliding and to help maintain control of their car.

6. Limit driving to daylight hours. When your teen is still a novice driver, I suggest limiting their winter driving to daylight hours — at least until they have more experience. This can help them get used to unfavorable conditions when they can see what is going on all around them.

7. Avoid travel when possible. Last but not least, if they don’t absolutely need to drive anywhere, the best idea is to just stay home — or wherever they may be — until the weather improves. Nothing is worth risking their life for. If conditions are bad enough, staying put is probably in their best interest.

For more information about teens and safe driving, click here

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Amanda Smith, a working mom of two children, writes weekly for momaha.com. Read more from Amanda »

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