Your teenager is about to graduate from a learning permit to a drivers license; or even as an older person, you are getting your first car. It doesn’t matter how new or expensive any particular vehicle is, they all need the same things; regular maintenance and  a driver who practices good car care habits. We all know of someone who, with utter joy, got their first car, and happily drove it for a few months, only to have it towed in after overheating, or experiencing engine seize up. How frustrating to discover that the damaged engine was cause by not getting an oil change, and letting the oil reservoir get too low, or by not filling up the coolant in the radiator.  A first time driver, or car owner, needs to know a few things to keep their vehicle out of their local auto shop and they also need to know when to take their car in to the repair shop for servicing.

Steve Jurvetson
Chevy Volt CC Photo Courtesy of Steve Jurvetson

Get to know your car before you drive it. Just like a new iPhone, or Playstation, it has it’s own unique systems. Read the owners manual to find out where everything is, and what those buttons, knobs, and warning lights are for. Do you know where the hood release and caution buttons are?  A new driver will feel a lot more confident once she is familiar with her car, not only in driving it, but in understanding how it operates. She needs to know about tire pressure, fluid checks and  where her bright light indicator is. In addition to reading her car manual and finding where everything is in the car, the first time driver or car owner has a wide variety of phone apps available to her to help her keep on top of car maintenance. Some will help her keep track of maintenance, and give her reminders that it is time to get an oil change, and others can help her make sense of what to do when various warning lights on the dash are activated.

While we’re on the subject of cell phones, we really need to talk about cellphone usage while driving. Texting, web surfing, and talking on the phone are very bad habits that distract drivers and lead to a lot of fender-benders and accidents. In Colorado, If you are under 18 years old or driving with a learner’s permit, it is illegal for you to use a cell phone while driving. And, it is illegal for drivers of all ages to text while behind the wheel in Colorado.

During certain emergencies, Colorado law allows the use of cell phones while operating a vehicle. You may use a wireless telephone on the road in the following situations:

  • You have reason to fear for your life or safety.
  • You witness a criminal act or believe one may occur.
  • To report a fire, traffic accident, road hazards, and medical or hazardous materials.
  • Cell-phone use is also permitted in designated parking areas or the shoulder lane.

If it is not possible to simple quit using your phone or PC device while driving, there are apps to improve safety for using the phone while driving. Many of these apps are targeted towards our youngest drivers. As parents, we know how tethered to the phone our teenagers can be, and to insure responsible phone use for our young people, an app might just be the ticket. There are many safety related apps available that monitor driving practices of newly licensed teens. They can alert parents via text or e-mail when kids exceed a specific speed and shows where infractions occurred. Also, several apps are on the market from iTunes and Google Play stores that address texting; several are specifically geared towards teens. They limits or disable access to e-mail, texting, browsing, and calling when a teen is on the road. Of course, these apps are applicable for any driver, if you want to focus on the road and not Facebook and Aunt Ava texting you for suggestions on what to go pick up at the store on your way to her party. Many devices will read your messages and are quite useful for driving, if you really need to stay connected. Not looking at your phone or taking your hands off the wheel while driving can make up all the difference in safety. Of course, bluetooth devices are good for this. One of the most sure-fire ways to avoid accidents and a trip to your local auto shop (and possibly jail,) is to be aware of cellphone use laws in Colorado, and avoid using our phone as much as possible while driving.

Once you have a  idea of essentially how your car operates, and the basic maintenance it needs, as well as familiarity with the technology inside the vehicle, you’re almost good to go. Except, we forgot one thing. Pop the hood. Yes, even if you’re not an auto technician, go ahead. As a new driver, it is important to know where the mechanical aspects of your vehicle are located. Additionally, go ahead and put to use what you learned in your owners manual about proper fluid levels. Check all your fluids, and fill them to the appropriate levels if any of them are low. Be sure and do this when your car is off and the engine is cool. Go ahead and inspect the battery cables, and hoses. They are probably fine, but if you have a mechanical problem, and inspect your engine after something begins to act up, you will have a baseline for what a well tuned engine should look like.

Now you can get behind the wheel and take off with full confidence!