Allowing your child to set off on his or her first independent road trip.


It's a moment that every parent dreads. You knew it was coming, but somehow, you just never thought it would happen to you. No matter how long you've wondered and worried about it, you're still never quite ready to hear your teen say, "I'm planning to go on a road trip." Allowing your child to set off on his or her first independent road trip is a terrifying notion for many parents. And though it is natural to be concerned about your teen's safety, to doubt whether or not he or she is mature and responsible enough to handle the potential scenarios he or she may encounter, there are a few measures you can take to help better prepare your kid for his or her adventure that will also let you rest a little easier in his or her absence.

Inspect the vehicle

  • First things first, the car your kid is about to take far away from your ever-watchful eye had better be in perfect working condition. Pop open the hood and check all the fluid levels. Oil, power steering fluid, coolant, windshield wiper fluid. Are they present and accounted for? Top off any that are low and store extra oil and coolant safely in the trunk, as they are the fluids most likely to run low on the road. Add a couple gallons of water to the trunk while you're at it.
  • Check the headlights, high and low beams, as well as the brake and reverse lights. Tail lights frequently go out without the driver noticing, so have your wayward kid jump in, hit the brakes a couple time and reverse to make sure all lights are a go. While in the driver's seat, take a moment to help him or her adjust the rear view mirrors by walking around the vehicle. If there are blind spots, you can pinpoint and rectify them immediately.
  • Last but certainly not least, check the tires. Gauge the air pressure. Does the number on the gauge match the PSI on the tire itself? It's very important that it does. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that anyone who is riding on tires that are 25 percent under-inflated are about three times as likely to experience a tire-related accident than drivers who have properly inflated tire. Tires running on less than the correct PSI are also more likely to have their vehicle overheat, so be doubly sure to fill any low tires to the proper PSI then examine the tread. After verifying that there are no visible damages or hazards, use the tried-and-true penny test to see if the tire is balding. Insert the penny into any tread line on the tire. If you can see all of Abe's profile, the tread is worn too thin and it's time to buy new tires. Since kids usually spring plans on you a little late in the game, an online tire retailer like TireBuyer can get new tires to you quickly. And don't forget to check the spare.

Emphasize safety

  • Create a personalized emergency kit for your young road warrior. A pre-assembled first aid kit is a good start, but you'll also want to include a needle and thread, flares, emergency fire blanket, compass and a multipurpose towel. Include a list of important phone numbers, like AAA towing, that your teen may be likely to need. If you're feeling generous (and a little nervous about your child's money management skills) you may tuck a $20 bill away somewhere in the kit, just in case, if you're so inclined.
  • Talk to your excited explorer about the rules of the road, particularly, the dangers of distracted driving. This can involve a number of unsafe practices while behind the wheel like eating while driving, adjusting the stereo or navigation device, talking while driving, grooming while driving, and most commonly, texting while driving. In 2013, drivers 20 years-old and younger, the demographic most likely to be using a phone while operating a vehicle, constituted 10 percent of the victims of fatal vehicle accidents. Explain to your child that no matter what seems so important on his or her phone, it can wait.
  • The final safety measure that you will want to take before wishing your teen trekker bon voyage is to confirm and review your insurance policy. Make sure your child is covered on the policy, and it may occur to you that now is a good time to consider a little extra coverage.

Ready or not, the teen driver in your family will eventually be rearing to hit the wide open road. It's natural for your child to want to exercise his or her freedom, even if that exercise makes your hair turn gray prematurely. It's just the order of things, but if you follow a few tips before you set them loose, you just might maintain some of your natural hair color.