So your 16-year-old is driving? Congratulations and, er, oh dear … a little scary too. If you’re feeling like someone’s ripped your heart out and is slinging it cavalierly around the highway at 60 mph, we can relate. We found Lamaze breathing kind of helped … that and making our offspring phone in when they left, when they got there, and then again every five minutes to say, “Um, yeah, still alive. Catch you later.”
But teen driving statistics are too horrifying to ignore, and a recent teen driving survey by AAA and Seventeen Magazine is enough to freak any parent out — and provide plenty of dinner table discussion fodder.
Still, getting that driver’s license is a milestone, a proclamation of independence, competence and maturity – and it’s worth marking the occasion, not just with a teen –parent driving contract and the obligatory “If you crash and hurt yourself, I will kill you” lecture, but with some practical gifts as well. May we suggest…
1. A California AAA card ($54 a year, but if you’re already a member, it’s just $30 for your kid) so when the car breaks down, junior’s not totally stranded. (Check out the teen driving safety course on the site too.)
2. A spare key card (free). Bring your AAA membership card and car key to your nearest AAA site (there’s one in Walnut Creek, for example), and they’ll make you an emergency spare that’s about the size and heft of a credit card, and just sturdy enough to let you unlock your oh-my-god-I-can’t-believe-I-locked-myself-out car and retrieve the real keys.
3. A GPS unit is a fantastic little gizmo, but we also like the low tech Thomas Guide ($45.95, but Amazon has it for $30.33), the indispensable, spiral bound atlas that shows every road in the Bay Area. Map reading is a skill every driver needs to learn – just make sure your multi-tasking teen doesn’t try to read the map while driving.
4. Jumper cables. Not as exciting as a sterling silver key chain from Tiffany’s, but considerably more valuable when the car battery dies. Which it will. Available at any auto parts store, as well as Target, et al. Make sure you include lessons on how to use ‘em.
5. An emergency kit for the car – including water, a blanket, first aid kit, granola bars and a flashlight. We’re also rather enamored with emergency cell phone chargers, because the Eeyore within says … if your luck was bad enough to warrant a flat tire, your cell phone’s probably out of juice too.
– Jackie Burrell