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5 tips to keep your teen safe on the road

SPONSORED — It’s the day every parent dreads: when you hand your car keys over to a freshly licensed 16-year-old driver. If you share this fear, your worries aren’t unfounded. According to a 2016 New York Times article, driving is one concern about which parents don’t worry enough. As researcher Nichole Morris said in the piece, “the most dangerous two years of your life are between 16 and 17, and the reason for that is driving.”

If you have a teen who is or will soon be a new driver, there are a few things they should know before they ever get behind the wheel.

Ditch distractions

Adults are guilty of it too, but when it comes to driving distracted, teens seem to pay a higher price. According to TeenSafe, distracted driving causes about a quarter of all vehicle crash fatalities. Of those crashes, teens make up the largest age group claiming to be distracted before the accident. It’s a problem with catastrophic consequences, and any teen driver should know the importance of avoiding distractions.

“We’re distracted so much,” said Ben Zacher of Point S Affordable Tire & Service in Seattle. “Teens really need to pay attention, because they’re not just endangering themselves. They’re driving around a two-ton deadly weapon.”

Be safe — from the ground up

When caring for their cars, teens should think from the ground up. According to Zacher, that means tires, brakes and suspension.
“If anything is wrong in those areas, it could cause a dangerous situation,” he said. With tires, teens should be able to check the tread depth — the old tried-and-true penny version still works. It’s also critical to recognize the signs of failing brakes.

“Anytime there’s a noise coming from the wheels, the most common cause of that is a brake problem,” said Mark Cushing, president of Good Neighbor Tire Point S in Renton. “That could be squealing, high-pitched sounds or grinding noises. And if you feel a vibration when you apply your brakes, it could indicate there’s a problem developing.”

Know what to do in an emergency

If you’ve been around the block (literally) as a driver, you know car problems are an inevitable part of life. But knowing how to deal with an emergency comes with experience. Before your teen gets behind the wheel, she should know what to do if she’s ever stranded or in an accident. This includes having the vital information always on hand: insurance and auto club membership cards, auto registration and driver’s license. Your teen should also have the number of a reputable, dependable auto or tire shop on hand in case he needs assistance with tires, brakes or other mechanical issues.

Know the ‘vitals’

Accidents on the road aren’t limited to crashes. If teen drivers don’t know the basics of auto mechanics, they may find themselves in a tough (or flat or overheated or broken) situation. If your teen doesn’t know how to change a tire (or even where the spare is stored), you’d better hope the roads he travels are free of potholes, nails or other debris. But changing a tire is just the beginning.

“Teens should know how to check all the vitals,” said Ed Tuck, president and CEO of T&T Tire Point S. “That’s the coolant, the oil level, the transmission fluid level and the air pressure on their tires.”

If your teen doesn’t have time to take an auto mechanics class, she could get a mini-tutorial by visiting a local garage or tire center.

“They can always come see us for a free safety inspection,” said Tuck, whose Tacoma store has been family-owned and operated for more than 63 years. “Even if you want to get pointers on how to check those vitals, any of our Point S stores would love to show them how and what to check for safety.”

Be aware

It’s not just cellphones that steal teens’ attention. Without proper focus, your teen could overlook something crucial on the road — such as a slowdown ahead or an obstacle in the street. Additionally, before getting in the car, your teen should be prepared to drive in the current conditions.

“Definitely bring the car in to a tire place to make sure the tires are OK for winter conditions,” Tuck said. “Less than 4/32 tread depth increases the braking and stopping distance and doesn’t give the driver as good traction in braking.”

To make sure your teen is prepared to take on the road, bring your car to a Point S location for a free safety inspection.

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