How We Can Teach Teens to Be Safe Winter Drivers

How We Can Teach Teens to Be Safe Winter Drivers

As I’m sitting here writing this post, sleet is hitting my window and instantly sticking to the sidewalks and roads. The below freezing temperatures and slippery conditions are not ideal driving conditions but serve as a teachable moment to teach teens to be safe winter drivers.

Teens love the independence of driving but it can be nerve wracking sitting on the passenger side of the car, watching them behind the wheel. Every minute on the road builds confidence but driving in dry sunny conditions differs from inclement weather.

As parents, it’s our job to teach teens to be safe winter drivers. But it’s one thing to talk to them about the what-ifs and another for them to experience road conditions firsthand.

Since winter isn’t over (thanks groundhog!), now is the perfect time to teach teens to be safe winter drivers. Lessons about car safety features and winter maintenance are just as important as having newly permitted and licensed drivers drive in snow, sleet, and slippery conditions.

If you’re not sure how to have this conversation because winter driving makes you a bit nervous, Tom Kretschmann, Product Technology Education Planner for Toyota Motor North America, recently shared some tips. As someone who spent 9 years in upstate New York and is familiar with New England road conditions, Tom was the perfect person to ask for advice about teaching teens to be safe on the roads in winter. Here’s his advice along with lessons I’ve learned while preparing my oldest for whatever weather she might encounter on the road ahead.

Driver’s education teaches teens the rules of the road before the get behind the wheel. As they prepare to hit the road, make sure they understand the features of your family’s cars.

In our house, we have two cars- an all-wheel drive (AWD) station wagon and a hybrid sedan. We always reach for the keys of our AWD vehicle in slippery, snowy conditions because we want peace of mind that the car will behave the way we expect it to.

AWD vehicles, such as the RAV4 Prime XSE Premium, provide power to all wheels, instead of the front or rear two wheels. In Toyota models, AWD helps the car do what you’re telling it to. It helps you get going and keeps you going by providing additional traction whether you’re accelerating from a stop or turning while climbing hills. It provides confidence when driving in slippery or snowy conditions but also in perfect conditions.

A car won’t perform well if it isn’t taken care of so teach teens the importance of regular maintenance. Regular vehicle checks help ensure:

One important lesson to teach teens to be safe winter drivers is to go easy on the power and brakes. Tom says, “When you walk on snow and ice, you walk differently. The same is true on cars, ease into power and brakes.”

He advises parents to teach teens to “drive like you have raw eggs under your feet.” Smooth throttle inputs help maintain traction and can get you through bad conditions.

As a parent of a new teen driver, I encourage my daughter to anticipate the unexpected when driving. She may have control over her vehicle but so many times other drivers don’t, especially in winter weather. Tom suggests parents should teach their kids to:

It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of:

Whether your teen is taking drivers ed to prepare for their permit or is a newly licensed driver, the conversation about staying safe on the road is ongoing. The best thing to do is to ensure you’re giving them the necessary experience behind the wheel that builds confidence so they know how to handle any situation they may encounter.

For more tips for new teen drivers, read my 8 Ways to Help Your Teen Driver Stay Safe on the Road.

I participated in a winter driving webinar with Toyota and was loaned a RAV4 Prime XSE Premium to experience the vehicle’s AWD. No compensation was provided for this post.