Overall the Eaton County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to 866 calls for service/events. Our higher call volumes occurred in the following areas: Alarms-35, Car/Deer Accidents-34, Assist Citizen/Motorist Assists-33, Check Well Beings-12, Domestic Disputes-18, Shoplifting Complaints-23, Larcenies-22, Drug Offense/Overdose-7, Property Damage Hit & Run-9, Personal Injury Crashes-9, Property Damage Crashes-33, Suspicious Subject/Situation/Vehicle-36, Traffic Hazards-29, Traffic Stops-224, Traffic Violations-22, and Vacation Checks-19.
Every parent worries about their teenagers when they first pass the driver’s license test and are legally allowed to venture out in a vehicle on their own. For many, that worry is compounded during the winter months, when the cold and snow can add extra challenges to road travel — and ones teens often haven’t experienced. But the more prepared your teen is to face the elements, the safer they’ll be, and the less you’ll worry.
Expose them to harsh weather while you’re in the passenger seat - Whether your teen is fully licensed or still using a learner’s permit, it’s important for you to be sitting in the seat next to them when they first set out in snow or ice. The more hours you log together, the better. By being there, you’ll be able to teach them in real-time what you know about driving in the snow, and you’ll see firsthand how quick they’re learning and how well they’re dealing with whatever winter weather is thrown at them.
Your teen may be itching to get out on their own, but they’ll learn quicker and you’ll both feel better if you’re there to teach them the basics of wintertime driving, like how to handle potential emergencies; how to follow a safe (and further than usual) space behind vehicles in inclement weather; and how to properly (and slowly) accelerate and decelerate, to name a few.
Help them learn to stay calm and patient — while you try to do the same - Cooler heads tend to prevail in cold weather, so it’s important to instill some calmness and confidence in your teenager and their driving skills. Having both will help them drive better in winter weather — and any other kind of weather, for that matter. Keep in mind that staying calm on your end is crucial when teaching your teen to drive.
Spend some time in an empty, untreated parking lot - A deserted, snow-covered parking lot is the perfect practice ground for a new driver to learn the winter rules of the road. You can usually find a lot to use shortly after a snowfall, before road crews and plows get to it. If it happens to be a weekend, a place that is closed, like your local school, may be a solid option.
In the lot, you can simulate some of the issues your teen could run into out on the road, like how to correct their course if they find themselves fishtailing and how to get a feel for braking in snow and on ice. You can even bring along cones to set up a makeshift obstacle course.
Encourage them to keep practicing in the right places at the right times - Eventually, you’ll have to exit the vehicle and let your teen head off on his or her own. The more your teen drives in inclement weather, with or without you, the more their skills and confidence will increase. When your teen sets out, make sure you know the routes planned for travel and that he or she is comfortable behind the wheel before gradually moving into higher-traffic areas. Practice is important, and you’ll probably find it’s worth the gas money.
Make sure your teen knows when to stay home - Sometimes, especially when you’re an inexperienced driver, the best thing you can learn is patience — and patience is sometimes best applied when you make the decision to stay home instead of venturing out on snowy or icy roads. The new license might be burning a proverbial hole in your teen’s wallet, but some weather is just too terrible to drive in, and the risk is not worth it.
You’ll likely be making the final ruling on whether your kid can go or hand over the keys and stay home, but make sure he or she learns to keep an eye on the weather forecast as well. Teens will eventually have to learn to independently plan for and navigate bad weather, and will mature to a level where they can make their own responsible judgment call.
Yours in Public Safety,
Sheriff Tom Reich