Driving requires attention, skill and the ability to make snap decisions, and drivers never know what they will encounter on the road. Although experiences are the best teacher, new drivers like teenagers can learn the importance of defensive driving and how to stay safe behind the wheel at the outset.
As a parent, go over these driving safety tips with your teens and take other steps to help them stay safe on the road, like choosing a safe vehicle and building an emergency kit for the car.
Safety Tip: Driving Without Distractions
With technology growing so rapidly, it’s quickly becoming an extension of our everyday lives, even when driving. So the first safety tip that can help teenagers stay safe on the road is to drive without distractions.
Safety groups are working to raise awareness of the dangers of texting while driving. But cell phones can be a distraction multiple other ways when used for making or answering phone calls, checking Facebook, or any other action that diverts attention away from driving.
Not all distractions involve technology. Eating a meal on the run may seem harmless. But anything that requires taking a hand off the wheel and attention away from the road has the potential to be very dangerous.
Safety Tip: Obey Traffic Laws
Although this is obvious, it’s not uncommon for teenagers to deviate from traffic laws. It may seem harmless to go a little over the speed limit. But oftentimes it’s anything but a minor indiscretion. Speeding is a significant cause of traffic fatalities.
Trying to beat a light or rolling through a stop sign are other violations that have serious consequences. At the least, your teen driver will be facing hundreds of dollars in ticket fines if he or she is caught while doing something as ‘harmless’ as rolling through a stop sign. The same is true when not merging properly or failing to use a turn signal when changing lanes.
Safety Tip: Know the Risk Factors
There are certain risk factors unique to teenagers. For instance, teens are at greater risk of an accident when there are passengers in the vehicle.
In fact, according to an American Automobile Association Foundation report in 2012, a 16- or 17-year-old driver’s risk per mile driven of being killed in an accident increased 44 percent when there was one passenger younger than 21 and with no older passengers in the vehicle. Risk doubled when there were two passengers under 21, and quadrupled when there were three or more.
Drinking and driving is another risk factor. It’s not only illegal for teenagers, but it impairs judgment. It’s also a contributing cause to many fatal crashes.
Safety Tip: Practice Defensive Driving
Defensive driving is the ability to anticipate dangerous situations and hazards that could arise when behind the wheel. For instance, if it’s raining or snowing outside, a defensive driver would slow down.
Another example of this is paying attention to traffic up ahead. Noticing brake lights alerts the driver to be prepared to slow down or stop. Keeping at least one car length behind the vehicle in front is another example. Driving too close to a car’s bumper increases the risk of a rear-end collision.