Teens and Tire Safety: What Driver's Ed Doesn't Teach Kids

Teen girl checking the tire pressure

Your child's driver's education class focuses on the rules of the road and being an attentive driver. But driving lessons often miss the mark when it comes to teaching basic car care information. Michelin North America, Inc. helped fund a study to determine what driving students are learning -- and not learning -- that could put them at risk for auto accidents.

“We found that teens are involved in 300,000 accidents a year that are tire-related, and that they’re involved in tire-related accidents at a higher level than adult drivers,” said Scott Clark, chief operating officer of Michelin North America’s Passenger Car And Light Truck Division, in a recent Modern Tire Dealer article.

What's All the Fuss About Tires?

A vehicle can operate without a radio, door or even a roof. But every type of motorized automobile must have tires to smoothly transport you from one place to the next. While these critical components of a car can easily be overlooked, they're often the source for auto crashes.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study highlighted in a Consumer Reports article explains that tires underinflated by more than 25 percent are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than tires properly inflated for the road and weather conditions. Tires underinflated by up to 25 percent can also cause car problems. The tires may become overheated, have a shorter tread life and not handle as smoothly.

Many new vehicle models implement a tire pressure warning light to alert drivers to over or under inflated tires. Teach your teen to recognize this symbol on the car’s dashboard and where local pressurized air stations can be found in your community. These are often paired with gas stations and car washes.

The study also concluded that car crashes were more likely as tire tread wears and diminishes. Twenty-six percent of auto crashes analyzed in the study involved vehicles with worn out tread measuring 0" - 2/32" depth.

Help Your Teen Learn

During your next practice driving session with your teenager, spend extra time discussing car maintenance and troubleshooting. If you're not confident about basic car care, find a relative or local mechanic to explain these topics to your teen:

  • How to check tire tread depth and tire air pressure
  • How to change a tire
  • How to call for roadside assistance
  • Who to accept help from during a car breakdown

In addition to tire topics, this is a great time to also review and explain:

  • How to check and add oil to the engine
  • Where to find the owner's manual
  • How to troubleshoot warning lights on the dashboard
  • How to adjust rear-view and side mirrors
  • How to safely fuel the car
  • Where to add windshield washer fluid
Packing an Emergency Roadside Kit
Before you send your child out on the road on his own, be sure an emergency roadside kit is safely tucked in the car. You can purchase pre-made kits from auto dealers, superstores and from larger car care centers. If you want to craft your own tote of safety supplies, here's a few ideas of what to include:
  • Reflective vest to wear when outside the vehicle
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Tire tread depth measuring tool
  • First aid kit
  • Matches and roadside flares
  • Oil, brake fluid and windshield washer fluid
  • Blanket
  • Flashlight and portable radio with extra batteries
  • Tool kit including screwdrivers, wrenches and a hammer
  • Jumper cables
  • Battery charging kit
  • Rags or paper towels
  • Duct tape and cutting tool (pocket knife or scissors)
  • Bottled water and nonperishable foods (dried fruit, nuts, granola bars)

Despite extra training, your teen will likely experience car trouble at some point while driving. Does your auto insurance coverage include roadside assistance and towing if your teen is behind the wheel? A Trusted Choice® independent agent can help you understand the details of having a teen driver in your household and how to make sure your coverage won't leave your son or daughter stranded on the side of the road.

Angela Tague, popular blogger

About the author: Angela Tague writes blogs for major brands including Bounty, Lowe's Home Improvement and Hidden Valley. She also provides feature content to newspapers and writes blogs for Daily Glow, Everyday Health and Walgreens.

Angela has worked in news writing since 1998. Her journalism career has led to positions at The Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa, The Sioux City (Iowa) Journal and several weeklies in the Midwest.

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