Teenage Garage & Parking Safety - Don’t Let Your Young Driver Get Stuck

Did you know that half of all teens will be involved in a car crash before they graduate high school? This fact from the Governors Highway Safety Association is sobering for parents. Teaching your teenager to be safe as a driver doesn't start with teaching them how to merge safely and stop at stoplights properly. It starts with teaching them how to be safe in the driveway, garage and parking lots.

As an adult, you likely don't think any more about all of the safety precautions that apply to these areas of driving, but your teenager needs to be carefully taught them – it’s not in their muscle memory yet. That's why we've created this guide that will help you guide your teen drive in all of the safety tips and tricks they need to keep their car and its occupants safe, even at the most basic level. Here are some safety measures you need to teach your teen to ensure safety at all times, even in your own garage.

Garage and Driveway Safety

How many times do you think about what you're doing when you leave your home? Probably rarely. Most adult drivers simply jump in the car, put it in drive, and take off. But the garage and driveway pose a significant number of risks. In fact, 39% of deaths from accidental back-overs happen in home or apartment driveways, and each year over 9,000 kids are treated in the ER because of accidents in the driveway. If you're not thinking about them as a seasoned driver, how can you expect your teen to? Here are some tips and tricks to help keep your teen safe in the garage

Driveway Safety
Garage safety starts with driveway safety. You need to teach your teen the following:
  • Remind young drivers that driveway accidents are the second leading killer of children playing around the home, and if a child is run over, it's more likely to be fatal than not.
  • Never back up without thoroughly checking behind the vehicle for toys, children and pets. If the vehicle doesn't have backup cameras, get out of the car, walk around it and check the blind spot behind the vehicle before backing up.
  • Learn to use mirrors to guide yourself as you're backing up, but never neglect actually turning to look where you're going.
  • Scan 360 degrees while backing up.
  • Prepare for children to suddenly dart into the path of the vehicle.
  • Teach your other children to stay far from the vehicle and within sight of the driver whenever your teen driver is backing up or pulling into the driveway.
  • Try to park so that you can pull forward out of the driveway instead of backing out of it.
  • Keep toys and other outdoor equipment away from the driveway.
For more driveway safety tips, visit:
Backing up Safely
Now that we have looked at the basic risks and tips to avoid them, it's time to consider some specific garage skills you need to teach your teen. Some of these are things you do on autopilot, but to your new driver teen, they are completely new behaviors. Backing up is one of these tasks. Before you let your teen loose, you need to teach her how to back up safely. Here's how:
  • Learn how to turn the wheel. To make the rear of the car go right, turn the wheel right. To make it go left, turn the wheel left.
  • Before backing up, place the left hand on the steering wheel. Drape the right arm over the seat, and look over the right shoulder to see behind the vehicle.
  • Control the speed of the reverse with just the brake pedal, not the gas.
  • Practice reversing until it is well under control before trying to reverse into traffic, which is a challenge skill for young drivers.
  • Remember to teach the teen to look forward as well as backward when going in reverse to ensure they aren't striking something, but only for a few seconds.
  • Start the practice in an empty parking lot, then move on to more challenging scenarios.
  • When backing out of a garage, always check to ensure the door is open. You'd be surprised how many inexperienced drivers back in to a closed door because this isn't yet a habit.
  • Know the vehicle's blind spots when backing up.
  • Only back up when absolutely necessary, and avoid unnecessary backing situations.
For more information about backing up and parking safely, and teaching kids this skill, visit:
Parking in the Garage Safely
Parking in the garage seems like an old habit to you, but it's actually quite challenging. Maneuvering a vehicle into the exact location it needs to sit in within such a strictly confined space without actually hitting the wall or the other vehicles in the garage is not easy. Here are some tips to help your teen learn:
  • When teaching a teen to park in the garage, start with a garage that's empty.
  • Teach the teen how to aim for landmarks in the garage, like a tennis ball hanging from the ceiling.
  • After parking, have your teen check how they did by exiting the vehicle.
  • Most teens will leave too much room on the driver's side of the car.
  • Only add another car once your teen is quite skilled at parking solo.
  • Have your teen practice parking all of the cars you will allow him to drive.
For more information parking in the garage safely, and teaching kids this skill, visit:
Understanding Garage Hazards
Finally, make sure you talk to your teen driver about some of the common hazards in the garage. Items you will want to warn them about include:
  • Items stored in the garage - Backing over a bike or took can pop a tire and otherwise damage a vehicle. Make sure your teen knows the importance of always checking their surroundings before pulling into or out of a garage.
  • CO poisoning - CO is an odorless gas that can kill your teen, and teens are often unaware of the danger of running the vehicle on idle while still in the garage. Even with the garage door open, the fumes can      get into the vehicle and your home, so always pull out before idling if idling is needed.
  • Poisonous items - Hopefully your teen is out of the stage of tasting things they find in the garage, 2but if they’re going to tackle any car repair tasks, you'll want to make sure they understand the risk of poisoning for siblings and pets. Items like transmission fluid and antifreeze can be deadly with just a few licks.
  • Fire hazards - Gasoline and oil and many other chemicals used in cars and car care are highly flammable. Instruct your teen never to use an open flame in the garage.
For more information about common garage hazards, visit:
Parking Lot Safety

Parking lots are quite hazardous, and many inexperienced drivers are involved in fender benders because they don't know how to manage these hazards. Here are some general safety tips for parking lots:
  • Never assume another driver can see you. Assume they can't or they haven't.
  • Watch for pedestrians at all times.
  • Teach your teen about the many blind spots in a parking lot situation. You often can't see beyond the car parked next to you, and this creates a risk when you start backing up.
  • Instruct your teen to never drive over 10 mph in a parking lot.
  • Remind your teen to watch all vehicles for backup lights, and to stop if a vehicle is pulling out of a parking space. While the car in the aisle has the right-of-way, your teen can prevent an accident by simply stopping and assuming the other driver can't see them.
  • Park in visible, well-lit areas to reduce the risk of theft or other crime.
  • Remind your teen to hide valuables to reduce the risk of a break-in.
  • Try to park further from the building if parking during the day. The farther from the building, the less pedestrian traffic your teen will have to navigate.
  • Always follow the arrows marking direction.
  • Avoid being out late at night when parking lots become dangerous, if at all possible.
  • Stop at all crosswalks and give pedestrians the right-of-way.
  • Stop at the end of the aisle and look both directions before pulling out and turning down the next aisle.
In addition to these general safety tips, here are some practical tips for learning how to park in a parking lot:
  • Back out slowly, keeping your eyes turned backwards to watch for pedestrians.
  • If possible, pull through the parking spot so you can exit forward. This will protect against blind spots.
  • Instruct your teen not to park in tight spots, because this increases the risk of your teen damaging a vehicle when opening a door, or your teen's vehicle receiving damage from nearby cars.
  • Never take up two spaces. If you can't get into the space right the first time, pull back out and try again.
  • When parking in a lot that has perpendicular spots, rather than angled slots, pull forward past the spot, then back up to turn the vehicle and position it to enter the spot. Practice this, because it's a valuable but challenging skill.
  • After parking, check your success and re-park if needed.
  • Look for vehicles with child safety seats, and provide enough clearance so moms can get their babies in the car safely.
  • Make note of landmarks that will help you find your car when you're ready to return to it.
Some of the safety measures to take in a parking lot don't involve driving. This is a place where your teen is going to be both a driver and a pedestrian, all in just a few short moments. To avoid a dangerous situation in a parking lot as a pedestrian, teach your teen these tips:
  • Be aware of surroundings at all times.
  • Look inside the vehicle before entering.
  • If in a parking lot at night, park in a well-lit area to avoid a problem.
  • If you feel unsafe, ask for security to take you to your car.
  • Listen for car engines that may indicate a car's getting ready to back out.
  • Don't walk between vehicles. Walk in the main aisle.
  • Limit the amount of time you sit in the car idling, as this can make you a target.
If your teen feels like they are being followed, tell them to do the following:
  • Run to the store or building if possible.
  • Do anything to draw attention, whether it's screaming, yelling, setting off the car alarm, or something else.
  • Consider giving your teen pepper spray to use in emergencies.
  • If near the vehicle, get inside and lock the door.
  • If other people are nearby, join a group and act like you know them.
  • If being followed while driving, find a well-lit parking lot to pull over and call the police. Do not exit the vehicle.
Finally, make sure you teach your teen these special considerations for parking garages:
  • Note the clearance. Some older parking garages may not accommodate large modern vehicles.
  • Be extra aware of pedestrians, which can be hard to see around corners in a parking garage.
  • Prepare for less illumination in parking garages. Try to park close to the entrance or close to a light for safety.
For more information about parking lot safety tips, visit:
Vehicle Safety

In addition to teaching your teen to use the garage safely and be safe in parking lots, these early days are a great time to teach them how to keep their vehicles safe. Here are some things your teen can learn to do at home.

Pre-Driving Checklist
Before your teen takes off on the road, teach him to check the following:
  • Check the amount of gas in the gas tank.
  • Check the oil, transmission and washer fluids.
  • Check the tires for low pressure or low tread.
  • Adjust the mirrors to your specifications.
  • Adjust the seat and steering wheel.
  • Turn the lights on.
  • Buckle the seat belt
  • Listen for strange noises.
By going through this checklist every time they leave the house, your teen will be able to drive with confidence that they're as safe as possible.

How to Fix a Flat
One of the most common problems drivers face is a flat tire. Here's how your teen can fix one, and this is a task you can tackle in your driveway easily.
  • Place  the vehicle in park in a safe place.
  • Place a block or brick behind and in front of the tire that will remain on the ground while you're fixing the flat.
  • Find the spare tire and jack. Use the vehicle's owner's manual for this information, if needed.
  • Place the jack in the right position per the owner's manual.
  • Lift the car up slightly, but not enough to lift it entirely.
  • Remove the hubcaps and lug nuts.
  • Double check that the car is stable, and jack it up so that you can remove the tire.
  • Remove the tire and place the spare on.
  • Re-attach the lug nuts, and tighten with the tire wrench by turning clockwise.
  • Test that the tire is on tightly by tugging on it a bit.
  • Drive a few miles, then pull over and test the lug nuts to ensure they're tight.
  • As soon as possible, repair or replace the damaged tire. It's not wise to drive on a spare for very long.
How to Change the Oil
Another task that your teen might want to learn is how to change the oil in the car. Keep in mind that this task can be messy, so make sure it's executed in a spot where you won't be upset over an oil spill, whether that's the driveway or the garage.
  • Purchase the oil and oil filter recommended by your vehicle's owner's manual.
  • Spread a protective covering on the ground.
  • Gather a rubber mallet, box-end wrench, filter wrench, drain pain and the new oil filter.
  • Position the car on jack stands or ramps with blocks to stop the wheels, but never work under a car that is on just one jack.
  • Smear some clean oil on the new filter's gasket.
  • Remove the drain plug and allow the old oil to flow into the drain pan.
  • Remove the old filter and replace it, tightening it by hand.
  • Once the old oil slows to a trickle, install a new gasket on the plug and tighten it with the box-end wrench and rubber mallet.
  • Clean up any drips.
  • Use a funnel to refill the engine's oil. Always double check that you've added enough by turning on the car and checking the oil pressure light.
  • Take the old oil to an oil recycling center. It should never be sent to the garbage.
This is not a task your teen should tackle without a lot of parental guidance the first few times, but it's really not that hard once you know what you're doing.

Replacing the Battery
If the car's battery is dead, it won't go anywhere. Your teen can learn to replace the battery safely. This is best done in the garage where weather won't impact the job, especially since it doesn't create much mess. Here's how to do it:
  • Clean the battery terminals using baking soda, water and a battery terminal cleaner.
  • Protect your eyes and hands with goggles and gloves.
  • Inspect the battery for cracks before removing.
  • Loosen the nut from the bolt that holds the terminal to the negative post. Slide the end clamp from the post, but avoid touching metal tools to the posts while doing this.
  • Repeat the steps on the positive terminal.
  • Unfasten the battery from the plate it sits in.
  • Remove the battery. Be careful to watch for corrosion. The battery is heavy, so this may require help.
  • Add the new battery and re-connect the terminals.
  • Refasten the plates.
  • Try to start the car.
  • Dispose of the old battery at a battery recycling center.
How to Jump a Car
Your teen is going to forget to turn the headlights or dome light off at least once, and wake up to a dead car. Teach him how to jump start the car, and make sure he always has jumper cables in the car. This is best done in the driveway, as it requires two vehicles.
  • Park the two cars so they are facing each other fairly close, but without touching. Put them both in park.
  • Set the parking brakes for safety.
  • Turn off the cars and remove the keys.
  • Set the jumper cables on the ground with the clamps separated.
  • Open the hoods and find the batteries in each car.
  • Attach the red cable clamp to the positive terminal on the dead car. Wiggle it to ensure it's a tight fit.
  • Repeat this with the red clamp and positive terminal on the working car.
  • Attach the black clamp to the working battery's negative terminal.
  • Attach the other black clamp to the dead car, but instead of the terminal, attach it to some unpainted, metal part of the car.
  • Start the working vehicle and let it run for about two minutes.
  • Try starting the dead car. If it won't start, rev the engine in the working car. If it still won't start, let the working car run another two minutes.
  • Once the dead car starts, leave it running, and disconnect the cables. Start with the black clamps, then the red. Take caution not to let the clamps touch each other.
  • Drive the dead car for a while to build up charge in the battery.
  • If these steps don't work, then the car can't be jump-started. Don't keep trying. Call for a tow.
Replace the Air Filter
The air filter is extremely simple to replace. This is best done in the garage so you don't add dust and pollen to the new filter. Here's what to do:
  • Unscrew the plastic lid holding the air filter.
  • Take out the old air filter and check to see that it's in need of replacement. If it looks dirty, you need a new one.
  • Put in the new filter in the right direction.
  • Screw the lid on again.
This is definitely something any teen can handle.

Change the Windshield Wipers
It only takes about 15 minutes to change the windshield wipers. If your teen's complaining that they aren't doing the job well, have her tackle this task. Here's how.
  • Lift the windshield wiper blades off of the vehicle.
  • Remove the old blades, watching how they connect to the arms. You may need to push a tab underneath the wiper to remove the blade. It should come off easily without much struggle.
  • Attach the new blades.
  • Make sure everything's lined up and nothing's going to scratch the windshield.
For more information about DIY car maintenance, visit:
Additional Resources

Teaching your teen how to be safe in the garage and parking lots around your community is not easy. Here are some additional resources you can use to help you teach your teenager about these important safety measures:

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