Summer road trips are a great way for your teen to get experience driving in different types of traffic, weather and terrain, all while you're there to steer them in the right direction. But before you set out, set a good example by walking your teen through this checklist to make sure they, and the car, are ready for the road.
1. Take a test drive: Before your road trip, go on a short ride with your teen to make sure the vehicle you plan to use is in good working order. Checking out the engine is always a good step, but this is a chance for you to see how the brakes and steering feel, as it sometimes takes an experienced driver to notice issues. Teach your teen that it's better to take care of small issues now rather than waiting for them to turn into bigger problems out on the road.
2. Prepare for the route: Whether online or with an old-school paper map, trace the route with your teen ahead of time so they know what sorts of terrain to expect. Driving through mountains and under-construction highways for the first time can be a shock, so be ready to offer advice or take over driving if necessary.
3. Emergency kit: We've talked before about the importance of emergency kits - here's a guide from the National Safety Council to help you get started. Summer road trips are an excellent time to replenish them and explain to your teen why each item is necessary.
4. Gather up-to-date contact info: Before leaving, check to make sure your teen has emergency phone numbers, like AAA, written down, and not just in their phone. This will come in handy in case of a dead battery (one reason a phone charger should be part of your emergency kit).
5. Plan for breaks: If your teen isn't used to long trips, they can be caught off guard by how quickly they become fatigued. Teach them the importance of stopping to rest every two hours or so. Rest areas exist for a reason, so they shouldn't be afraid of pulling over for some light stretching or a quick nap.
6. Gas money: Who pays for the gas on a road trip? That's for you to decide, but the important lesson here is making sure your teen knows to bring both cards and cash for fuel and emergencies. Depending on where the trip takes you, you may not be able to use credit or debit cards, and it's always best to be prepared.
Remember, your teen learns their driving habits from you, so teach them how to be a responsible road trip driver and the lessons will stick with them for life.