This time of year many teenagers will be on the road heading off to college. For many parents, it can be scary to have a child behind the wheel and on their own.

Our own Consumer Auto Advocate, Owen Murray, was recently on WBAL-TV giving parents advice for making sure your student, and car, is safe this school year. Here are some important tips:

  1. Preparation is vital. Make sure your son or daughter is hitting the road in a safe and appropriate car. Have the vehicle examined by a certified mechanic to make sure it is in good condition. Specifically, be sure to check the tires, battery, lights, engine and that the oil has recently been changed.
  1. Get the Driver Involved. Your child should know the basic anatomy of the car they’re driving. Make sure they understand things like: the recommended maintenance schedule, the meaning of dashboard warning lights and the proper course of action and key features of the car’s mechanics.
  1. Get Schooled. Consider signing your teenager up for a defensive driving class that offers behind-the-wheel instruction. You can often recoup the cost of the class through discounts on your auto insurance.
  1. Basic Car Care 101. Before heading off to college, you may teach your teen personal safety tips, cooking and how to do their laundry, but they should also understand basic car care. Take time to teach them how to change a tire, check the tire pressure, monitor and refill wiper fluid, antifreeze and monitor oil and how to jump a dead car battery.
  1. Have the Right Equipment. Make sure there is an emergency roadside kit in the car with all of the essentials. Having the right equipment will help your teen be prepared even with the unavoidable breakdowns or emergencies.
  1. Distracted Driving is Dangerous Driving. Currently, 20% of accidents are caused by distracted drivers. Educate your child on the importance of keeping their eyes and mind on the road. An inexpensive dash mount for their cell phone allows them to keep their hands on the wheel.

And finally, it’s important to talk with your kid about the safety behind the wheel. Limiting the number of passengers, never drinking and driving or getting in the car with someone who has, never texting while driving and staying alert are all really important things to stress to your teen drivers.