Handing over the keys to the family car to your teen can be a scary prospect to many parents but doing so when the roads are covered with ice, sleet or snow is even tougher.  While you can’t safeguard against every situation they may encounter while behind the wheel, preparing them for winter driving is certainly a necessity.  Here are tips for your teen & winter driving… everything they need to know in the snow.


Getting The Vehicle Ready

It might be second nature to you but to your teen, knowing how to safely warm up their vehicle before taking off or how to safely remove ice and snow from the vehicle could be something they’ve never even thought about! When starting their vehicle to idle, talk to them about the dangers of doing so in an enclosed space like a garage with the door down.  And while fuel injected engines do not need to warm up for extended periods of time like the old carburetor relics of the past it can become necessary to run it when frost is on the windshield and windshield wipers in order to get ice and snow completely removed. Show them how to scrape the windshield with an ice scraper without damaging the wiper blades or the vehicle’s paint and how to carefully lift the blades to clear ice and snow from below. In addition, explain to them the importance of clearing all the snow off of their vehicle, including on the hood, rooftop, trunk, headlights, taillights and license plate. Remind them that this is not only what’s safe but what is required by Michigan law.


Driving On The Road

One of the best ways your teen driver can lower their risk of getting into an accident during the winter is to simply slow down when roads begin to get slick or snow covered in West Michigan. Begin by teaching them that any maneuver will take longer in slippery conditions including accelerating, braking and turning so they aren’t surprised by their vehicles unresponsiveness. Then take them out on short drives while you’re in the vehicle in order to coach them through the experience. Remind them to increase their distance behind other vehicles to accommodate for longer braking times and to accelerate slowly at lights and stop signs to maintain traction. Additionally, they should know that they should never use cruise control when roads are wet with rain, snow or ice which can lead to losing control of the vehicle. If they do begin to skid, remind them that they should always steer in the direction that they want to go.


Common Pitfalls

It may be difficult for young drivers to understand how normal actions or locations can be treacherous in wintry conditions in Grand Rapids but giving them a heads up before they head out can help solidify in them new habits that can keep them safer.  Talk to them about bridges becoming icy before normal roadways, as well as underpasses on the highway. Remind them to avoid increasing their acceleration rapidly while driving on them or while trying to gain momentum on a hill which could cause their tires to spin and lose traction.


Vehicle Tips

To always be prepared may be the motto for Boy Scouts but we could all take note on how that can help every driver in West Michigan. Keep your gas tank at least half full during the long winter months in Grand Rapids and make sure there is the recommended amount of tire pressure at all times. While they may not think it’s important or necessary, talk to them about wearing or at least bringing a warm hat, gloves and coat in the vehicle in case it breaks down or in the event they become stranded, as well as keeping blankets stored in the vehicle. Additionally parents should be sure to inspect their teen’s tires on their vehicle to make ensure they have enough tread to handle the increased need for traction, which in winter should be no less than 6/32″.



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