Teens eager to drive often have parents equally concerned about keeping their new drivers safe. In fact, the rate of fatal crashes per mile driven for teen drivers is 3X that of drivers over age 20.1 The reality is that novice drivers can take years to develop real-world experience behind the wheel.
Until then, parents can set expectations for safe driving behaviors, provide opportunities to practice in a safe environment and stay involved, even after their teen earns a driver’s license. Help teen drivers stay safe behind the wheel by preparing them for risks on the road with this teen driver timeline.
One Year in Advance: Set a Good ExampleStarting long before your teen receives his or her driver’s license, demonstrate the kind of safe driving behaviors you will expect from your teen, including never driving while distracted by technology. It should be an easier conversation when it comes to setting expectations when your teen gets behind the wheel if those expectations reflect your own behavior.
While distracted driving is dangerous for all drivers, Dr. Charlie Klauer, who studies teen risk and injury prevention at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, has found that the risks are much higher for novice drivers who engage in manual-visual tasks, such as texting while driving.2
Less Than a Year in Advance: Discuss Dangerous BehaviorsParents can help teens understand how certain behaviors behind the wheel may increase the risk of a crash. These behaviors include speeding, tailgating, drowsy driving or driving under the influence of alcohol or while distracted. Engaging in two or more of these behaviors at the same time may greatly increase the risk of crashes, according to Dr. Klauer.3 Parents should discuss the importance of safe speeds, a safe following distance and being aware of potentially dangerous conditions.
Six Months in Advance: Set Specific ExpectationsTalk with your teen about his or her plans for driving. If your teen plans to drive, does he or she plan to drive every day? Does he or she plan on owning a car? Discuss the potential risks of driving, including legal and financial responsibilities, which can include insurance premiums, repair costs and fines for unsafe driving.
Establish the rules of the house, including when and where your teen is allowed to drive, so he or she knows your expectations. For example:
There are also teen driver apps that can monitor driving behavior, including speeding.
Four Months in Advance: Know the Rules of the RoadMany states have extensive learner’s permits and graduated driver’s license laws. It is important to learn the rules and guidelines for your state. Strive not to just meet the minimum requirements, such as hours driven with supervision, but to exceed them. Most state departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) offer a driver's handbook, which may also be available online.
Three Months in Advance: Plan for the UnexpectedTalk with teens about what to do if they are in a car accident. Do not assume new drivers instinctively know the basics, such as getting the other driver’s insurance and contact information, calling the police, taking pictures, completing an accident report and notifying your insurance company as soon as possible.
Help them pack an emergency kit for the car and discuss what they will do if their car breaks down on the road, including getting the car to a safe place before they get out. Make sure they have the number for roadside assistance, if you have a service that they can call.
Road Test Day and Beyond: Continue the ConversationStay involved with your teen driver even after he or she gets a driver’s license. Let him or her know it’s okay to ask you for help or for more practice. Encourage your teen to only drive in conditions where he or she feels safe. Continually review the safety guidelines, including prohibition of use of portable electronic devices while driving, which you discussed before they earned their license, so it remains top-of-mind.
Remember, even after a new driver takes the keys, continuing to talk about your expectations for safe behavior can help reinforce good decisions.
This is how to know when to replace them.
There's nothing more important on a car than properly functioning brakes. It's a safety issue, and it's also about confidence: Feeling that your brakes aren't up to the task of stopping your car is plain unnerving. You don't need the stress.
But how long do brakes last? And when should you replace them? Luckily, there are a few easy ways to know when it's time to get your brakes checked or replaced.
Why Brake Pads Wear
Disc brakes slow and stop your car by using brake calipers (they're like large, adjustable clamps) to squeeze brake pads (they look a little like hockey pucks sawed in half) against the brake discs, also known as rotors (Frisbee-sized metal discs). When you push the brake pedal, it causes the calipers to clamp down on the brake pads, which squeeze the rotors, transferring the kinetic energy of your car into thermal energy—heat—via friction. The friction created is what cuts the speed and brings your car to a halt. As the pads rub against the rotors, they both wear down slowly; the black dust you see on the wheels of some cars is the residue from the pad material and steel rotor that has worn off. Brake pads are an integral part of your car's disc-braking system, and making sure they are in good condition is crucial to your safety.
How to Know If Your Brakes Are Worn Out
Disc brakes generally give a few clear indications that it's time for a brake job. The first is something you can hear: Once brake pads are worn to the point of needing replacement, a thin metal strip in the pads will make a screeching noise or squeal when you apply the brakes. The noise is generally audible when the windows are up, but it may be masked by loud music or other environmental noise. However, not all cars have this feature, which is called a mechanical brake-wear sensor or a brake scraper, so check to see if yours does.
If you hear a scraping or a deeper grinding noise, it could well be that the brake pads have worn down to their metal backing plates and that those plates are being squeezed directly against the steel brake discs. This is dangerous. It reduces your stopping power significantly; your brakes won't slow the vehicle adequately or possibly not at all if you let this go on for any length of time. This situation will also destroy your brake discs and possibly cause the brake system to fail entirely. Have any squealing or grinding noises checked immediately.
Conduct a Visual Check
A second way to know that it's time to replace brakes is to visually check them. Look through the wheel spokes. You just might be able to see the outboard brake pad, where it touches the brake disc. If you can see it, make sure there is at least a quarter inch of material on the brake pad. If there is less, you should have the brakes checked; most likely, they'll need to be replaced. If you can't see the pad by looking through the spokes, then jack up the car (here's how to do it correctly and safely), remove a front wheel, and check for pad wear. Bolt the wheel back on, jack up the rear of the car, remove a rear wheel, and check a rear brake as well. You'll probably need a trouble light or flashlight to see the pads clearly in the dark fender wells. (If you want to be thorough, check all four brakes.) The photo below shows what brake pads look like, with a new one on the left and one that's roughly half worn on the right
What is often a simple pad replacement can turn into a far costlier and more complicated brake job if you find the pads worn and then ignore the situation. As noted above, if the pads have completely worn down, you will soon hear a grinding sound that means the pads' backing plates are making contact with the brake rotors. If that happens, get ready to pay big bucks; you'll need to replace chewed-up brake discs.
Other Indicators of Brake Issues
There are other symptoms of brake trouble that don't involve wear to the brake pads. If your brakes don't stop as readily as they used to, and if the pedal feels mushy, rather than firm, or slowly sinks toward the floor, there's likely another problem. This could be water or air in the brake fluid, a fluid leak in the system, or a failing brake master cylinder. If you have any of these systems or see a puddle of liquid left behind by your car when parked, see a trusty repair shop or dealer.
If your car pulls to one side during braking, the brakes may be wearing unevenly, there might be a leak in one of the brake lines, or you might have an issue with your steering or front suspension that's unrelated to brakes. If you feel a vibration or pulsation in the brake pedal during normal braking, this means your rotors are warped and require truing to smooth them out—or possibly replacement. If you've been driving aggressively or using the brakes hard while descending a mountain road, this brake roughness might abate when the brakes cool. If the vibration or pulsing continues, that is another sign they need to be inspected.
Some Brakes Wear Faster
Certain environments and driving situations cause brakes to wear at a faster rate. If you live in a mountainous area or a hilly city such San Francisco, your brakes may wear quicker than if you lived in the flat lands of the Midwest. In the more wear-prone locations, you'll want to check your brakes more frequently.
There's no more important a component on your car than your brakes, and now you know what to look and listen for to ensure they keep working properly. By being proactive in maintaining them, you'll save you money in the long run, and you'll stay safe.
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