What Kids Should Know Before Getting Behind The Wheel

I remember when I got my first car.  I learned how to tune it up, change the fan belt, and change the oil and filters. I even rebuilt my 4-cylinder engine just to make sure I understood how the internal combustion engine worked – my father had one of his mechanics guide me through the process. It gave me great satisfaction to know when the carburetor needed adjusting and that I could maintain my car by myself.  Of course that was back in 1973 when cars were much simpler than they are today.

Remember when schools had auto shops? Schools have stopped offering these courses for several reasons: (1) to save money on building shops and outfitting them with the equipment and materials needed for these specialty classes; and (2) students (or their parents) are more interested in taking rigorous academic classes to stack their transcripts with AP courses to impress college admissions officers.

When my girls got their first cars, I created an auto shop class for them at Merit Academy where they learned everything they needed to know before they got behind the wheel.  They learned how to change the oil and filter, rotate tires, and check fluids and lubrication.  They also spent the day with an automatic transmission specialist to see the inner workings of a transmission. Other field trips included watching a car get smog tested, talking to a woman from Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and visiting a rehab center where they met with paraplegic and quadriplegic teen survivors. 

At the end of the class, they met with a CHP officer to see what happens if they are pulled over for being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  The officer actually handcuffed them after making them walk a straight line wearing vision-altering glasses.  Each student took CPR and First Aid at the American Red Cross as the final requirement for the course.

Driving a car requires maturity that most 16 year olds don’t have, but giving them an education and hands-on learning experiences so they know how to handle their cars gives them the foundation to make smart decisions. Since everyone drives a vehicle, shouldn’t schools offer classes to teach the students more than traffic rules?