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Question for parents of teenage drivers...(22 posts)

Question for parents of teenage drivers...rwbadley
Aug 29, 2002 10:55 AM
My son is sixteen, and has been driving for about six months. He has been chomping at the bit to get his first car. I have some friends that sold us their '89 Acura Integra. Kind of a gussied up Honda Civic, I think. The car runs great, considering the high mileage. This will be his car to drive.

We have had the car for about four days, and because it has not yet been registered and insured, the car has not been driven. Here is the problem...

This Acura has a manual transmission. To this point he has no experience with that. When I grew up all we had in the family was a manual, I had watched a clutch being used my whole life. Since his time, all we have had are automatic trans.

When this car was purchased, I told him that we would drive together with me giving instruction until I was satisfied with his command of the manual transmission. At that time, and not before, he would then receive the keys to his car. So far we have spent the last few days going over the car together, changing the oil, new wiper blades and spark plugs, cleaning it up etc.

He is not content with the pace thus far, and has been bugging me about it. He wants me to just toss him the keys. Even my wife was whining about 'when are you gonna give him the keys?'

I will let him drive when the car is ready, (registered and insured) and he is 'checked out on the equipment' is my reply.

Am I wrong to be adamant about this?

I agree......Dave Hickey
Aug 29, 2002 11:35 AM
Take him to a local school parking lot. Don't let him drive until he's comfortable. My son just turned 15 and is getting his learners permit. As nice as it's going to be not having to drive him to hockey practice, I'm dreading the day. He hasn't proven he's responsible yet. I'm adamant about my kids wearing seatbelts, yet I have to remind him everytime we get in a car.
Just curious, are you making your son pay for insurance?
Yes, he has a job, and works with me to pay nmrwbadley
Aug 29, 2002 11:51 AM
re: Question for parents of teenage drivers...PaulCL
Aug 29, 2002 11:37 AM
No teenagers here, but you seem to possess good common sense.

Yeah...let him drive the car now. Then who's gonna pay for the new clutch next week?? Who's gonna pay for the damage to car he backs into or bounces forward into?? You are right. good luck. I'll be there in six years. jeesh.
Wrong and not wrong . . .Steve98501
Aug 29, 2002 11:43 AM

You're not wrong to adamant; the car needs to be registered and insured. In my state I think you have 30 days to register a car; no big deal, do it when you get around to it, but it shouldn't prevent your son from driving. I can call my insurance company today, adding a car, and my kids can drive it - fully insured - tomorrow.

What you're wrong about is the rate of progress! Geez! Your son is 16, had the car 4 days, and you're ruining his life stalling so long! I look at it this way: the sooner my kids could drive, the sooner Pop's taxi service could close up shop.

Checking him out on the manual transmission could be an entertaining one-day experience for you both. I took my kids to the high school parking lot, had 'em put it in 1st gear and practice stop and go until they had that down pat before contemplating the rest of the gears. They agreed the step-wise process made sense, and by afternoon we were out on the freeway in 5th gear. And I never drove them anywhere again. Yippee!

Aug 29, 2002 11:44 AM
It's still your cannot let him drive til you feel comfortable.
Buy him a six pack and throw him the keys...scary slow
Aug 29, 2002 12:57 PM
Just kidding! I am assuming that you are a cyclist since you posted your message on RBR. Personally, I would say wait until you would feel safe riding your bike on the same streets that he is driving on. I would say that a good portion of the people who give me flack when riding are in their teens and find it amusing to scare the @#$% out of unsuspecting cyclist.
If I understand correctly:TJeanloz
Aug 29, 2002 1:11 PM
You are perfectly O.K. with him driving an automatic transmission car around town. The difficulty is in the 'new' transmission- right?

Last weekend I taught my 14 year old cousin how to drive a manual in all of about fifteen minutes. The critical thing to understand is that this isn't like school- this is something he wants to learn how to do; he will be a diligent student.

Spend an hour with him, I recommend the procedure of practicing starts in 1st gear, and when those are mastered, moving up the transmission- 1st is the only real challenge. And then throw in things like stopping on a hill. With a long weekend, he should be a regular Andretti by Tuesday.
nope...i agree with you.ColnagoFE
Aug 29, 2002 1:46 PM
my kid is going to have to buy his own car and pay for insurance--at least a part of it. and i also think that all kids should learn to drive a manual transmission--even if they later drive an automatic. a good skill to have.
re: Question for parents of teenage drivers...nn23
Aug 29, 2002 2:11 PM
IMO changing gears is one of the least important things of driving. At worst, one will mis-shift, hold up traffic at stop lights and the clutch will need to be changed within the year.

The important things are keeping the speed in check - hard when you are young - and steering. If you trust him enough with the other two, the rest is relatively minor.

4 days is more than enough training. Give him the keys.

(I am not a parent, but was a teenager many years ago.)
Ron: Check www.autoweek.comcory
Aug 29, 2002 3:00 PM
I just did a magazine column about this--go to, then click on columnists and then my name.
Reason I bring it up is that I got about 40 e-mails from parents, and EVERY ONE agreed with me. They'd either been pretty strict with their kids about this or wished they had. Learning to work the clutch is the smallest part of the problem. The real hurdle is adjusting his attitude so he realizes one screwup is all it takes, and that he can kill himself or somebody else.
Well written, and makes me wonder...rwbadley
Aug 29, 2002 3:48 PM
exactly the same thing that's going through your mind. Why?? Sweet princess will be in danger (and we too) due to a lack of guts to say no? Minimal knowledge of driving? The SUV will help...(puhleeeze)

Not all of us have gearlube in our veins. I grew up on combustion engines. My son grew up in the computer age. He can get the computer going when I screw it up, I can tell his tires are low by looking at 'em.

My point with the car at this time is, I did let him drive it a few miles, and became nervous real quick. About sharing the road (as a bicyclist or otherwise) with a person that had not yet mastered the vehicle.

When driving the automatic, not so bad, less things to keep track of. The manual threw a whole new equation into it. I believe practice will help alot, but until it becomes more instinctual, problems will prevail. The attitude is important, I have not yet met a sixteen yo that had figured out the mortality thing. That dying stuff just happens to somebody else...

I also agree that working the clutch should be a smaller part of the problem. We will work on that this weekend.

Thanks for your link to autoweek, Cory. I'll be sure to check back there again. Lot's of good stuff!

Good article Cory..DINOSAUR
Aug 29, 2002 4:39 PM
I read your article after I completed my post. You are right on the mark. Driving is a big responsibilty. Hmmmm, I totaled my first car, a '53 Studebaker Champion, got T-Boned by a '49 Studebaker. If my daughter wrecks her car, I told her she can take the school bus for the next two years, because I'm not buying her another car, period.
As a teenager...empacher6seat
Aug 29, 2002 3:36 PM
I'd say you're doing the right thing. When I was in highschool I saw too many kids have cars handed over to them by parents and they'd be crashed within a month. Around one third of new drivers (less then a year of driving experience) are involved in crashes (In my province, BC) and I'm sure the number is equal or higher in more densly populated areas where driving is much harder. I was involved in 2 crashes in my first year. I was rear ended in the first one, by another new driver, who actually happened to be a friend of mine (what a coincidence!). The next one was slightly my fault. I went around a corner (wasn't speeding) and fishtailed. I had bald tires, and it was the first rain we had seen in around 3 weeks. Had I been a more experienced driver, I would've known the proper way to get out of a skid, and probably managed to not crash. If I had a better understanding of the car and how easily one can kill you, I wouldn've gotten my tires changed before hand! I almost died in that one, it was pretty scary.

I agree with the poster above who said make sure he has a good understanding of handling and speed issues. Safty and respect are extremely important. Clutches can be replaced, limbs and lives can't.
re: Question for parents of teenage drivers...DINOSAUR
Aug 29, 2002 4:20 PM
I understand completely what you are going through. My daughter turned 16 in June and tested for her drivers license and passed. What is really hard is that you are going to have to let go, they won't be little kids all of their lives. We set very strict guidelines for her using my wife's car (we are in the process of looking for a car for her). She is allowed to go only certain places and when she arrives at her desination she has to call us on her cel phone. This has been going on since the end of June. She drives back and forth to high school, a 34 mile round trip on mountain roads and an interstate freeway in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. I taught her how to drive and I was very strict, to the point were I made her nervous. When I felt comfortable with her driving, I determined she could be allowed to drive by herself. I harped about the mortality rate for teenage drivers involved in traffic accidents. The biggest problem is that they don't seem to sense fear or have an idea of the consequences if you make a mistake in judgement.

I can't tell you what to do with your own son, but how do you feel when he is driving the stick shift? Make sure he has the mechanics down in a parking lot (maybe a couple of days) then have him drive on a quite street and see how he does. I think they have more of perception for speed when driving a stick over an automatic, but that's just my opinion. My wife wants to find an automatic for my daughter, we had a disagreement and I went with her instints. Trouble is, try to locate a economy car that is an automactic.

I think you are doing the right thing, you can't just toss them the keys, driving a car is a big responsibility and should not be taken lightly. As a sidenote (and I don't like to mention this) I'm a retired CHP Officer and I've seen the wrath and carnage of automobile accidents, enough to still give me nightmares even after being retired for almost 4 years. Driving is a big responsiblity, it's like driving a loaded weapon. I worry about my daughter driving, probably will for a couple of years.

I don't think this is an area where you can tread too lightly. I don't worry about her so much as I do the other fools that are on the road. I think you are are the right track, wish others would think this way before they toss the car keys to their teenagers.

Good luck...
Classmate of my daughter killed in crash over labor day weekend.DINOSAUR
Sep 3, 2002 9:11 AM
A Sixteen year old boy driving on a mountain road, lost control on a curve and ran off road down embankment and collided with a tree causing fatal injuries to seventeen old passenger. I harp to my daughter the importance of following the rules-of-the-road and the need to obey the speed limit. I only pray that she listens.

I know this stretch of road, it's one of my ride routes on my long rides. The curve is not not severe, accidents always seem to happen at places that you wouldn't expect. All it takes is one split second of inattention and it's all over with.

When I was stationed at the Redwood City Office in the S.F. Bay Area in 1973 a car load of teenage girls traveling home from a track meet was collided head-on on I-280 in the Woodside area by a drunk driver driving the wrong way on the freeway. The collision killed the 17 year old girl driver upon impact. I had to witness the coroner inventorying the body and a one of the parents of the passengers identifying the dead girl. This crash happened almost 30 years ago and sometimes before I go to sleep at night I lay awake and try to think of how old the girl would be if she was still alive.

Life is short enough as it is, at 17 life is just beginning. Traffic laws have a purpose. It can happen to anyone. Don't just throw the car keys to your teenagers. No matter what they think, they are not invincible, nor or we...
hopefully, some good will come of itDougSloan
Sep 3, 2002 10:23 AM
I think the best that can come of these awful accidents is that 100 other young people will learn from it and it will serve to spare other lives. While an ugly thing to think about, hopefully your daughter will feel this directly and cause her to be extra careful while driving and not ride in cars with others not being careful. This should remind them that they are not immortal, and that losing friends and family is very painful for everyone.

I wouldn't count on that.Steve98501
Sep 3, 2002 3:02 PM
Teens, particularly boys, generally cannot seem to grasp the concept of mortality. Even after the loss of a classmate, in a matter of a few weeks they're back to their usual behavior, whether it's driving or anything else. I had daughters and might have been lucky. They seemed to respect, if not fear, speed until they acquired the skill to go with it. As a long-ago teenager who drag raced, I knew too many other kids who didn't get it, that racing was never safe, and only under certain conditions (time, location, equipment, who was involved) did the calculated risk even make it "safe enough" to be worthwhile.

I don't think it's possible to make teenage boys appreciate the risks associated with driving. I think they're more likely to be responsive to the certain knowledge that if Dad discovers any unacceptable driving behavior, Junior's gonna' be hoofin' it, which was the ultimate uncool when I was a teen.

Sep 3, 2002 3:45 PM
Maybe they should be required to go to the morgue and see their friend following the accident. I've seen some blood-and-guts accident scene photos in my career (probably nothing compared to Dino), and it makes you realize that death, as bad as it is, can be even more horrific when you see what really happens to the human body in a bad accident. It's nothing like the cleansed views we see on television. The "gross-out" factor might get their attention. Maybe some ride-alongs with a CHP to some accident scenes would help them get the message.

i doubt itColnagoFE
Sep 4, 2002 9:24 AM
i remember having to see those "blood and guts" videos during drivers ed. witnessed a couple of alcohol-related crashes too. pretty creepy stuff, but didn't really influence my driving habits. i don't know how parents can sleep at night when they have teenage drivers in the house.
Sep 4, 2002 4:17 PM
I rode my bike past the location where the boy died in the crash. I stopped for a couple of minutes to take a look. They have a small memorial with a white cross, flowers, photos of the boy and some notes from friends. By looking at the skidmarks and physical evidence you can see that it was not a very spectacular crash. They skidded across the road, traveled down a dirt embankment and collied with a small tree, then the car continued on for 100 ft or so. The car must have collided with the tree at precisely the right angle in order to inflict fatal injuries to the right front passenger. I don't know what it takes to get people to slow down, these roads here are very unforgiving and allow no margin for error. I think I will take my daughter up to the crash scene and perhaps it will sink in to her. I'm just glad I'm not in that business anymore.

You never know about things like this. When my oldest son (now 35) was in high school he got a call about 3:00AM one morning from his girl friend. His girl friend's younger sister, (15) had been killed in a car crash caused by a young man driving under the influence of cocaine/alcohol.
The accident happened a couple hundred miles away from home. The girls father (a school teacher) was on a trip and I transported the family to the airport in order to pick him up. It was a very sad situation. To this day my son seldom drinks alcohol and never drinks and drives. I don't think he ever forgot it. Perhaps if just one kid will learn from this accident another life will be spared.
Tragic...Every parents nightmare nmrwbadley
Sep 3, 2002 11:21 AM