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It’s hard to believe that your child is teenager. You remember the day they were born like it was yesterday. Memories of their first steps, words and when they learned to talk are easy to recall. You’ve been watching your child flourish and grow. You taught them how to walk, ride a bike—both with and without training wheels—and now it’s time for them to get behind the wheel.

You know that your child is both excited and nervous to drive. While you encourage this new endeavor, you are also anxious. Distracted driving is top on your list of things to chat with them about, but since they will be using several county and back roads, you may want to talk to them about how to drive on unpaved roads as well.

How do you start the conversation?

Unpaved roads require special attention and skill. The texture provides its own set of challenges. Many of the county roads include several blind turns and curves as well. With over 200 traffic fatalities in Kentucky this year, you want to do all you can to set your new driver up for safe experiences. You can start by reminding your teen of the following:

  • Drive slow. Explain to them that vehicles handle differently when on unpaved roads. Going too fast could make them lose control. Speed can also cause the car to kick-up dust making it hard to see.
  • Avoid turning sharply or quickly. If the road has loose gravel, this can easily cause the car to fishtail. Remind them to slow down and proceed with caution when turning or changing direction.
  • Watch for curves, dips and loose surfaces. Unpaved roads can change in an instant. Explain to your teen how to spot any dips or changes in surface area.
  • Keep an increased following distance. These roads can cause dust to churn-up, leaving visibility poor. Rocks and other debris can also break lose and fly into the air. Keeping a longer distance between vehicles will help make this more manageable.
  • Brake slowly. Due to the uneven surface, braking can be difficult. Make sure your child knows to accelerate and brake slowly to maintain control of the vehicle.

You may consider taking your teen for a ride so they can watch you complete these actions yourself. Explain the difference you feel and point out changes in the road along the way. Don’t be afraid to let them know how catastrophic an accident on an unpaved road can be so they take the lesson seriously.