With new independence, young drivers assume some costs (and all responsibilities) of drivingLast year, Jerry Cox struck a deal with his teenage daughter when she got her driver’s license: If Rachel could go one year without an accident or traffic ticket, he’d give her $100.
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
Last year, Jerry Cox struck a deal with his teenage daughter when she got her driver’s license: If Rachel could go one year without an accident or traffic ticket, he’d give her $100.
When the year was up on June 18, “Rachel parked the car and said, ‘You owe me $100,’” said her mom Paula Cox who lives with her family in Grand Forks.
Rachel has no particular plans for the money but may use it “for college or maybe a car,” she said.
“They just put it into my savings account.”
At 16, she drives herself and her younger sister Emily where they need to go in her “sweet ride,” as she calls the family’s ’97 Buick, a little tongue-in-cheek.
“It can go from zero to 60 in 20 minutes,” she joked.
Rachel is among the many teens who have taken that leap into adulthood, learning to drive, coached by parents who set the ground rules on this newfound freedom that comes hand-in-hand with responsibility.
Parents of emerging teen drivers face questions about who’s going to pay for what. Expenses related to insurance, gas, repairs, license fees and maintenance can add up quickly.
The cost of car ownership is on the rise again this year, according to a new report from AAA. Coupled with the potential effects of the slowed economy, some people may find that having young drivers in the family can pinch their budgets.
The Cox family has not been affected by the sluggish economy, Paula said. She and her husband are employed full-time, but they wanted to get their daughter started on the right foot by raising her awareness of the costs of driving and the need to drive safely.
“I’m not sure where I got the idea for the $100 incentive,” Jerry said, “but one accident and the insurance will go up way over that.”
Rachel is pretty careful with her money, Paula said. “Money motivates her.”
The deal is on for another year, Jerry said. And he’ll offer it to Emily, 14, when she gets her drivers license.
“It’s a good incentive... You’re always worried” about safety, Paula said, pointing to the pervasive use of cell-phones and other handheld devices that divert young drivers’ attention away from driving.
“Even though yours (kids) are behaving, you need to look out for others,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many adults I’ve seen staring at their phones and driving.
“It used to be you didn’t have cell-phones. There are so many more distractions now.”
Her daughters “know to not be on their cell-phones while driving,” she said. “If it’s that important, I say, pull over. The place they’re going will still be there” later.
Paying for gas
Rachel, who has a part-time job at a local restaurant, pays for all her own gas.
“Except for one or two times when they filled it up,” Rachel said.
At her job, her work hours can vary.
“When she doesn’t have a lot of hours, and has to buy gas, it’s kind of a bite,” Jerry said.
Rachel admits that “gas does get ‘spendy’ but… I’m pretty frugal with my money. It’s not a big deal.
“Sometimes they help out, ‘cuz they love me.”
It’s important to Jerry that his daughters “learn the value of money, and what it costs to operate a vehicle,” he said. “Some younger people think everything is free.”
Paula adds, “Plus we want them to know the reality of what things cost — what it means if you get somewhere and you forgot to take your (athletic) shoes and have to go back.”
They are fortunate that, because Rachel earns good grades at school, their insurance company gives them a discount, she said.
“We’ve saved between $75 and $100 a year on insurance premiums for the good academic record” that Rachel has achieved, Paula said.
The logic behind these discounts, she said, “is probably, if you’re not willing to try at school, you’re not going to try at something else.”
When she first considered the prospect of driving, “Rachel was actually kind of scared of it,” Paula said.
After getting her learner’s permit, her daughter waited a year before taking drivers education classes which are offered in the summer.
That hesitancy could be due to an accident her daughters experienced while they were passengers in a relative’s car when it was rear-ended by another driver.
“I think it kind of scared them a little bit,” she said. “We’d never had an accident… They think the guy was texting.”
Thankfully, no one was hurt; passengers were all buckled in.
“We have stressed seatbelts since birth,” Paula said.
She recalls, when the family car backed out of the long driveway at their home, a four-year-old Emily would call out, “I’m not buckled!”
Rachel continues this rule, without exception, when she’s at the wheel – even if she has a full load of fellow cross country and track teammates.
“We wear seatbelts all the time,” she said, “because it’s illegal if you don’t wear (them) and I want people to be safe.
“Besides, it would be my fault if I got pulled over and they weren’t wearing them.”
Rachel is acutely aware of the potential dangers that surround the driver.
“You have to watch everywhere on the road — the sidewalks, signs, stoplights, people walking — and other drivers too. You have to anticipate their next move.”
She does not text while driving, she said. “I get mad when other people do it.”
“She honks at them,” Emily said.
Rachel sometimes catches herself drifting to the side while driving, she said. “What would I do if I was texting?”
Emily, who was granted a permit on June 5 and plans to wait a year to take drivers education, also takes driving seriously.
“I’m absolutely terrified to drive,” Emily said.
She could have gotten a permit last October, but “didn’t want to jump into it right away. You have to have the skills to do it. It’s not just handed to you.”
She’s more concerned about what other drivers are doing.
“I’m afraid of other people, not technically myself,” she said.
“The greatest weapon you can have is a car.”
Witnessing car accidents has made her “more wary of things around me,” she said. That “made me want to prevent it from happening.”
Like her sister before her, Emily is learning to drive by taking lessons from Dad who’s taken the girls to quiet country roads and large parking lots when those businesses are closed.
“Both have been real good as far as following instructions,” Jerry said.
“He’s had more years of driving,” Rachel said. “He was more excited about us driving. He’s calmer when it comes to that…
“Mom is a worry wart, she’s more worried about others are doing,” Rachel said. “Dad’s more ‘teacher-y.’”
He’s not nervous about teaching them, he said.
“I may be a little more patient maybe, I don’t know.”
It could be that men are better-suited for the task, Paula said. “Maybe men don’t frighten as much. They’re more easy going.”
Come winter, he’ll take them to get them used to driving in winter conditions, she said.
When Emily begins driving next year, prompting the need for another vehicle, the family may be in the market for another car, Paula said.
“We’ll look for a car that’s affordable, but not ready to fall apart.”
Rachel will be on the lookout for something smaller, with improved gas mileage, she said.
Whether or not she’ll help pay for it has not yet been discussed, Paula said.
In the future, Emily knows she may be called on to help with expenses.
“I’m not excited about paying for gas,” she said.
Feds ask automakers to limit built-in electrical devices
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is recommending that automakers voluntarily limit the functions of electronic devices built into vehicles.
The administration’s guidelines illustrate the dangers of taking your eyes off the road if only for a few seconds, especially for young drivers who are still mastering simple driving techniques.
How to reduce the cost of owning a car:
The cost of car ownership is rising and, if you’re a family on a budget or a senior on a fixed income, you may be feeling the impact.
Here are some tips to make driving more economical:
• Shop around for better insurance rates.
If you have a good driving record, talk to your insurance company about reducing your premium. If you’re a senior and take a refresher course in driver safety specifically for seniors, you may be able to negotiate lower insurance rates
• Maintain correct tire pressure.
Make sure your tires are inflated to the correct pressure as indicated on the sticker on the inside of your door, not the number on the tire sidewall. Underinflated tires can increase fuel consumption by up to 3 percent.
• Use preventive maintenance.
Changing your air filter, for example, can go a long way toward smooth, efficient performance. A clogged air filter can increase fuel consumption by as much as 10 percent.
• Keep a maintenance record, including oil changes.
Try using a high performance synthetic motor oil, as opposed to conventional oil, to allow for more miles between oil changes. Premium synthetic motor oil can reduce maintenance costs and time spent out of service. To learn more about synthetic lubricants, visit www.RoyalPurpleConsumer.com
• Change the way you drive.
Aggressive driving is not only unsafe and stressful to your health, it can reduce your fuel economy — as all that stop-and-go uses more gasoline than smooth braking and acceleration. Improve your fuel economy by reducing idling time and lightening your car’s load.
• Check around for quotes.
Hire a reputable mechanic. Knowing the going rate for the service performed and parts replaced can help you to avoid unnecessary costs.
Knudson covers Health and Family for the Herald and can be reached at (701) 780-1107, (800) 477-6572, ext.1107 or email@example.com.