Saying goodbye to our college daughter on the steps of her freshman dorm last fall was a moment marked with a long hug, a few tears and a dollop of heartache. This fall, she will have a car at college and my anguish will begin when we say our goodbyes and not diminish until we get the text from her with that beautiful 4-letter word, “here.”
Is your teen driving herself to college for the first time this fall or after winter break? Here are 25 ways to help her drive safely when she is the one behind the wheel.
In the Trunk
1. Jumper Cables – a dead battery is a relatively easy fix with a set of jumper cables and the knowledge of how to use them. A step-by-step guide on the safe way to jump-start a car can be found here. Consider printing them out, reviewing with your teen and folding them into the glove box where she can find them if need be.
2. Reflector Triangles – being visible is crucial if a car is broken down on the side of the road and a reflector triangle in the trunk could be invaluable.
3. Car jack – make sure it is a compatible size for the car.
4. Ice scraper/snow brush – though it will most likely be hot when your teen drives to school in the fall, go ahead and get him ready for the return trip home at Thanksgiving or Winter break when snow and ice might easily be in the forecast.
5. Phone car charger – having a fully charged cell phone to call for help could be a lifesaver making a car charger is a true college “essential.”
6. E‑ZPass– a time saver and great convenience on toll roads in 14 states in the eastern part of the US, an E‑ZPass device mounted on the front windshield of his car will save your teen time and money as he won’t have to stop (often in long lines) at toll booths along the way.
Under the Hood
We found these steps from the National Safety Council but also recommend scheduling an appointment with a car dealership or mechanic to for a pre-road trip check.
7. Tires – check for proper inflation, alignment, and tread. Have they been rotated according to the recommended tire rotation schedule?
8. Wiper Blades – still working or is it time to replace? .
9. Fluids – Battery fluid, brake fluid, coolant, oil, transmission fluid, windshield wiper fluid all need to be at proper levels.
10. Lights – brake lights, headlights, turn signals should be checked.
11. Belts and hoses – look for cracks or bulges; if over four years old, they need to be replaced.
In Case of Emergency
If your teen feels that they are losing power, hears an unfamiliar sound, or has a tire blow-out, here’s what to do. Go through these five points with your teen well before he is packed and ready to go.
12. Slow down – your teen should resist the urge to slam on the brakes and should, instead, gradually decrease speed.
13. Use the indicators – indicators and hazard lights will show others what the driver is trying to do. Make sure your teen knows where these buttons are.
14. Be seen – after driving to a safe spot off the highway, keep the flashers going, raise the hood, and place a reflector triangle behind the car, especially if this occurs during the night.
15. Call for help – your teen should take note of any highway signs or landmarks to give police an idea of where he is stranded.
16. Stay away from the road – remind your teen to never walk in the road, even to get tools or supplies out of the trunk, but should slide over and get out of the car on the passenger side. Further, he should stand far away from the car while waiting for help.
In the Glovebox
17. Roadside assistance – who should your teen call if he has car trouble on the road? While they will want to phone their parents for help, they need to know who to call for roadside assistance. Options may include the family insurance provider, AAA, or, possibly, the manufacturer of the car. Take time, before your teen leaves for college, to explore which will be most responsive. Make sure she has the number in the car and her cell phone.
18. Ownership documents – if your teen is pulled over or needs the help of a policeman, she will need the registration and insurance card along with her driver’s license. Does she know where each of these are kept?
19. Owner’s’ Manual – a wealth of information about the recommended operation of the car, this is one reference book that he needs to refer to while owning the car.
20. Parking permit – does her college have parking lots that require registration and a permit? Best to look online at the college website before she arrives to discover a missed deadline or some other important college parking rule.
21. Accident report – in case your teen is involved in an accident, would he know what information to collect from another driver? After calling the police and 911 if anyone is hurt, collect contact information, driver’s license number, insurance policy account and phone numbers and while standing at a safe spot near the scene. Take pictures of damage to your car and theirs, too.
In the Backseat
22. Water, non-perishable snacks
24. Blanket and warm clothes
25. Flashlight and extra batteries
One final thought, my new favorite app to use for navigation is Waze. After loading in the destination address, Waze will offer several different routes and expected arrival times. It will alert drivers to accidents or hazards along the way, too.