Colorado winters are famous for a reason. The weather can transform from sunny and dry into a frigid blizzard in a heartbeat, and while the mountain views look majestic with their snow-capped peaks, driving on the slippery, icy roads is far less charming.
Driving in snowy conditions can be strenuous for even the most seasoned of drivers, but for new drivers inexperienced with winter roads, it can be an incredibly nerve-wracking experience. Learning to brake slowly, how to handle skids, and the importance of increased following distance are paramount to staying safe during these chilly months.
As a parent of a newly licensed driver, you naturally want to protect your teenager by sharing the tools necessary to adapt to Colorado’s winter roads. To help you do that, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Practice Winter Driving with Your Teenager
While it’s tempting for parents to keep their sons and daughters home or drive them around during the winter, all Colorado motorists will eventually need to know how to navigate a vehicle during wintertime. That being said, there’s no need to dive straight into the deep end. When practicing with your teenager, it’s best to begin in open spaces (such as parking lots) when conditions are moderate before attempting to hit the freeway during a full blizzard.
This allows your teen to slowly acclimate to roads with less traction in a safe setting. It’s always a good idea to ensure a young motorist’s first experiences with winter driving are under the supervision of an adult who has had ample experience forming safe winter driving habits.
By taking it slow and providing ample direction, you can efficiently demonstrate the skills necessary to handle the rugged winters in the Rockies before setting your adolescent loose to brave the cold independently.
Be Mindful of Where and When Your Teen Drives
Even when parents feel confident letting their young drivers navigate the snowy roads by themselves, many parents still set practical limits of where their adolescents can take their cars and when they are allowed to drive when it’s snowy. For example, consider reserving the use of the car for daylight hours, especially if your teenager hasn’t had much practice driving at night with black ice on the roads.
Similarly, the thought of novice winter drivers descending steep mountain roads that are covered in ice or snow is naturally a bit concerning. Take time to evaluate your teen’s skills, and then make it clear to your teen what areas are and are not off limits.
As your adolescent’s skills build and experience broadens, you can get more liberal with what you permit. Some parents monitor their teens’ locations and driving habits (such as abrupt braking, speeding, and hasty acceleration) through driving apps and telematics, which helps them gauge if their teens arrive safely at their destinations as well as how they drive without supervision. Using technology like this can help you decide whether you should set narrower limitations or looser boundaries by assessing for risky behavior.
Encourage Your Teen to Stay Home When Possible
During the most brutal storms, police often issue ratings urging the public to stay off of the roads when possible, so don’t be afraid to use this tactic yourself. While you don’t want to instill a fear of winter driving in your teen, use your best judgement to determine what your newly licensed driver can reasonably and safely handle. If you feel the weather conditions are too harsh or there is a possibility that your son or daughter will get caught up in a severe storm later on, encourage your child to stay home or wait out the storm whenever possible. Similarly, make it known that if your teenager ever feels unable to handle inclement conditions, you will offer a ride yourself or arrange for a safe alternative. When roads are slick and snow is blustering furiously around, it’s not the ideal time to push the limits.
Make Sure Your Teen’s Car Is Winter-Ready
Demonstrating how to properly prepare a car for winter will help keep your teenager safe, and you’ll also impart skills and wisdom that will be needed throughout your child’s lifetime as a driver.
Understanding how and why to check and adjust tire pressure, prevent windshield wipers from freezing to the glass, keep at least half a tank of gas in the car at all times (to ensure your teen can use the heater in the case of getting stuck), and maintain proper fluid levels (antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, etc.) are all important parts of ensuring a car is safe for lower temperatures.
Additionally, making sure your son or daughter’s vehicle has snow tires, four-wheel drive and/or alternative-traction devices will help prevent skidding and sliding, and it will also keep the vehicle compliant with Colorado traction laws so that your teen doesn’t get taxed with a hefty fine.
Lastly, show your adolescent what to pack in an emergency vehicle kit, and talk through strategies for handling winter emergencies.
Enroll Your Teenager in a Colorado Defensive Driving Class
While your son or daughter will benefit greatly from learning from you how to best handle these brisk winter months on the road, an accredited defensive driving course can accelerate and advance the skills necessary to drive in slick winter conditions. Additionally, defensive driving courses help students learn how to best avoid and react to hazards and minimize distractions. Some classes will even cover important car maintenance skills, such as how to change a tire or jumpstart a dead battery. Advanced courses taught by professional driving instructors can help your adolescent become a more well-rounded motorist who is better able to adapt to challenging conditions, no matter what season it is.
It’s natural to feel hesitant about your son or daughter navigating winter roads for the first time, but as a busy Coloradan, you know that life doesn’t stop when the first snow makes its appearance. By spending extensive time showing your teenager how to drive safely in inclement weather, setting proper driving boundaries, providing alternative options for when your teenager doesn’t feel safe driving, demonstrating how to maintain a vehicle during lower temperatures, and advancing your child’s skills with a defensive driving course, you’ll be able to know you did all you could to help your young driver stay safe amid these beautiful yet demanding winters in the regal Rocky Mountains.
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