Driving Tips

National Driving Academy blog covers items related to safe driving relevant to learner drivers and their families.

What does every parent of a learner driver have in common with President Obama?

Caitlin Kerr - Thursday, September 20, 2012

SOURCE: Getty Images
President Barack Obama and daughter Malia.

"It's only a matter of time until Malia gets her learner's permit. So I'm hoping to see one of those models that gets a top speed of 15 miles an hour. The ejector seat any time boys are in the car. So, hopefully you guys have some of those in the pipeline." – President Barack Obama

Whilst the President’s oldest daughter was only 13 years of age when he made the above statement, it’s never too early to start preparing for the day your child get his or her driver’s licence and wants to drive independently. In fact it’s inevitable that your kids will be driving without you in the car, or in your car! So finding the safest vehicle that you and/or your child can afford should be a priority.

In the economic tug-of-war between affordability and safety you must try and find a balance to ensure that your learner has the safest car possible. It is always going to be a compromise, as older vehicles are usually less costly than newer vehicles. However, newer vehicles will often have four or five star safety rating with many safety features such as ABS and airbags. The risk of death or serious injury in a crash in a vehicle made in 1987 is about double that of a vehicle made in 2007 .

Apart from the economic concerns, there is also the consideration that buying a teen a car is indulgent, and therefore there is a struggle with whether, and how much, they should help with a major purchase. If parents contribute too much, the kids could acquire an unhealthy sense of entitlement and be unprepared for how much things actually cost in the real world.

Unfortunately there is no right answer. What you do and how you do it will depend on your financial situation and values. Parents may find the following website useful http://gbuffone.wix.com/the-family-wealth-resource. The website is from Gary Buffone, a psychologist and author of “Choking on the Silver Spoon: Keeping Your Kids Healthy, Wealthy and Wise in a Land of Plenty”.

When you should buy a car as a new driver is also a consideration. Young drivers (17 to 24 years) are over-represented in road deaths. Young drivers represent 25% of all Australian road deaths while only being 10-15% of the licensed driver population.[1] P-Plater drivers are estimated to be 33 times more likely to have a crash than L-plate drivers [2] and the risk decreases (almost halves) over the first 6 to 8 months of post licence driving experience and goes down further with time[3].

Regardless of whether a car is new or used, there are some common sense rules to follow to ensure the safest possible experience. These rules include:
1.    Car Maintenance – Ensure that the car is regularly serviced by a qualified mechanic in accordance with the manufacturer’s requirements. Driving a car without proper maintenance is likely to increase the risk of mechanical damage and can make the car unsafe. Always ensure that brakes, batteries and tyres are regularly checked.
2.    Basic car skills – ensure you know how to change the tyre on your car and other important requirements such as adding water to the radiator, windscreen wiper washer reservoir and adding air to your tyres etc. 
3.    Windscreens – don’t ignore chips and cracks, attend to them promptly. Keep windows clean and fog free.
4.    Defensive driving – Consider investing in a defensive driving course to learn more about your car and defensive driving skills. 
5.    Insurance – Often people fail to insure properly because their own car is inexpensive. This can be devastating in situations where third party property is damaged. Fully explore all options other than Comprehensive insurance, including Third Party Property and Theft policies.
6.    Roadside service – The older the car the great the prospects of a break down, making road side service with motoring organisations  very relevant and valuable.

Checks when buying a used car
Buying a used car requires some essential checks before you hand over any money, including:
1    Check the seller’s identity; ask to see a drivers licence and note details.
2    Check the vehicle Registration documents; Check that the names and addresses match those of the licence you have viewed. Record the chassis/VIN and engine numbers as they will be needed for REVS checking. Take a photo of the documents using your phone camera.
3    Are you inspecting the car at the same address as that shown on the vehicle registration and licence? Ask why if this is not the case.
4    If you buy a car privately, it is necessary to ensure that the car is not subject to a financial liability (money owed on it to a finance company) as the liability will still attach to the car and may be repossessed. You can check with REVS on 13 32 20 or online at http://www.ppsr.gov.au/Pages/ppsr.aspx to find out if a car in any state other than WA is subject to a financial liability, has been reported stolen or as a write-off.
5    Use the RTA Vehicle History Check service available online at
 http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/myrta/rego/vehicle-history-check.html which provides details of a car’s history including the number of owners, date of first registration, and registration and CTP insurance status.

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