A Guide to Your First Car for Teens

Learning to drive and obtaining a driver's license are key to independence for many teenagers. Most adolescents approaching the age of 16 are excited to gain this skill. As monumental as this rite of passage is for many teenagers, driving involves significant responsibility. This responsibility requires emotional and cognitive development to ensure safety behind the wheel. With the inherent impulsiveness of teenagers, they need to be able to manage their behavior to be safe drivers. Making smart decisions that focus on both long- and short-term results and the ability to weigh risks prudently are two skills that teens must master as they prepare to drive and to purchase a vehicle.

Driver's Education

Although formal driver's education does not begin until adolescence, young people begin learning about driving from the time they are old enough to observe other people driving. Parents are often the first people who demonstrate driving skills and techniques to children. By setting a positive example of safe and courteous driving, parents can teach youngsters important fundamental driving lessons. Once formal instruction begins, parents should be an integral part of the process. Teenagers benefit from ongoing encouragement while they learn about traffic laws and road safety. Parents should be ready with answers when questions arise. Once behind-the-wheel lessons begin, provide patient communication to the new driver. Positive reinforcement helps draw attention to correct driving techniques while helping a teen learn from any mistakes. Experts recommend that student drivers have a minimum of 30 to 50 hours of driving practice with a licensed driver over a period of at least six months. With plenty of practice, teens can gain the skills and knowledge necessary to obtain their driver's licenses.

Finances and Purchasing

Purchasing a first car is a major milestone for anyone. A teen with a goal of saving money to buy a car needs the vision necessary to attain this goal. Careful spending and regular deposits into a savings account will need to be the norm for a teen trying to save money for this purchase. Borrowing money may be an option for some adolescents. A teen might borrow money from parents or another family member. Parents might secure a bank loan on behalf of a teenager to enable the teen to purchase a car. Buying a car requires careful research to ensure that the purchase is sound. A used car will have a history of use and maintenance. Prudent research involves checking and verifying maintenance, including the replacement of auto parts. Verify the mileage, and find out about any issues such as accidents and flood damage. Have any vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic prior to purchase to find out about problems. Make an offer that fits the car's condition and comparable prices for similar makes and models.

Safety Behind the Wheel

After earning a driver's license and purchasing or arranging for a car to drive, issues of safety become the priority. A number of safety issues place teenagers at risk when they slide behind the wheel. With their limited driving experience, teens are more likely to make mistakes when operating a vehicle. Mistakes can have devastating consequences. Parental supervision of a driving teenager can help minimize some of these risks. Parents should require that teens wear seat belts at all times when in cars. Parents might also limit nighttime driving because this is the time when most accidents happen. Limiting the number of teenage passengers in the car can help reduce distractions. Cell phones are also a significant source of distraction for teenagers: Parents should provide ongoing instruction for teens to ignore distractions such as cell phones while driving. Impaired driving from drowsiness, alcohol, or drugs is also a big risk for teenagers. Parents must supervise teenagers continuously to ensure that they do not drive while impaired in any way. Teenagers may also be more likely to engage in reckless driving, which is very dangerous. Ensure that teens understand the importance of following all traffic laws and driving in accordance with current road conditions.


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