8 Common Mistakes Teen Drivers Make and How to Correct Them

Here's how to reduce the risk of your teen getting into an accident

by Nancy Reynolds

This Post: Common Mistakes Teen Drivers Make and How to Correct Them

Nearly every teenager would likely agree that getting their driver’s license is one of the most exciting and defining milestones of their young adult life. But ask their parents how they feel and you might get a different response…

Seeing their young teen back out of the driveway and venture out onto the open road ALONE is scary to say the least, especially considering that teen drivers are more likely than adults to make fatal mistakes behind the wheel.

In fact, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists motor vehicle crashes as the second leading cause of death for U.S. teens.

Understanding the perils of driving, parents need to be aware of the most common driving mistakes their teenagers might make so they can be corrected and reduce the risk of future accidents. Here are the 8 common mistakes teen drivers make when learning to drive and how parents can help correct them. 

8 Common Mistakes Teen Drivers Make and How to Correct Them


#1 Not Driving at a Speed Safe for the Conditions

One of the best ways your teen can avoid potential accidents is to maintain a speed that’s safe for conditions. Driving too fast when it’s raining, snowing, icy or foggy can put your young driver (and other drivers) in danger. 

Teens also need to be reminded that the speed limit is the maximum amount they’re allowed to drive, not the minimum. Traffic and bad weather might call for a reduction in speed that’s drastically lower than the number on the sign.

In addition, teenagers need to step away from the mentality that speeding saves time. Sure, they might shave off a few minutes of travel time by picking up their speed, but the risk of getting into an accident or running off the road will always be far greater when they’re speeding.

#2 Becoming Distracted While Driving

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 58 percent of all teen crashes showed distractions as a major factor, including 89 percent of road-departure crashes and 76 percent of rear-end crashes. What they also found is that even the smallest distraction can lead to a crash.

Talking to other passengers, texting, playing loud music, and eating greatly increase the risk of an accident. Talk to your teen about the importance of paying attention while driving, and avoiding distraction. Also, remind them often to never ever text and drive – using a mobile device while behind the wheel is illegal in most states.

The more they understand the overwhelming risk they’re taking when they drive distracted, the more likely they’ll be to think twice about doing anything besides driving when they’re behind the wheel.

#3 Not Pausing Long Enough at a STOP Sign

At a STOP sign, it’s important to come to a complete stop before proceeding. Waiting a total of three seconds is a good rule of thumb—and it applies even if the crossroad is clear and there aren’t any other cars in sight.

Ensure your soon-to-be teen driver knows that failing to stop at a STOP sign results in an automatic failure on many states’ driver’s tests, not to mention that when they do start driving it can result in a hefty ticket.

In addition, it’s also imperative that they fully understand traffic light rules and regulations.

#4 Not Changing Lanes Correctly

There are so many factors involved when determining whether it’s safe for your teen to change lanes, including whether the adjacent lane is clear, other vehicles’ speeds and size, their car’s speed and size; the width of the lane; and visibility.

To determine if it’s safe, teen drivers should signal early, check their mirrors, and look over their shoulder to check their blind spot for oncoming traffic.  

Also, be sure to remind your new driver that it’s never okay to pass on a double yellow line, even if there aren’t any other cars in sight. 

#5 Not Looking Far Enough Ahead

When teens start driving, they’re typically so hyper-focused on following the rules of the road, maintaining their speed and avoiding other cars that they’re not quite as aware of their surroundings as they should be. But simply looking ahead can prevent the possibility of a fender bender or rear-end collision. 

Doing so requires a good grasp of their speedometer in relation to distance traveled on road signs or markings; knowing when they are going too fast for conditions such as in fog, rain, snow, ice, and wet pavement; understanding that unforeseen things can happen (i.e. children and/or animals can run out onto streets) and keeping a close eye on the two or three cars in front of them.

Maintaining this kind of attention will help your new driver notice if drivers ahead of them apply their breaks, which will give them plenty of time to slow down or move over into another lane.

#6 Not Checking Mirrors Often Enough

Side and rearview mirrors are there for a reason. Yet, teenagers are notorious for skipping the important step of checking them frequently. Not only can their mirrors ensure adjacent lanes are clear when they’re changing lanes, but they can also alert them to what’s approaching them from behind. 

A good rule of thumb is to encourage your teen to glance at their mirrors every five to eight seconds and look at their mirrors before changing lanes, stopping suddenly or turning.

#7 Reducing Speed Too Late

When you’re a new driver it’s easy to get caught up in driving so much so that you forget to glance at your speedometer or keep a close watch on changing speed limit signs. And, considering a lot of speeding tickets are often the result of drivers failing to slow down in an appropriate amount of time after the speed limit has changed, it’s extremely important for teens to keep their eye on speed limit signs. 

Congested areas, situations where there is road construction, school zones and residential areas will typically have a lower speed limit. Make sure your teen knows to maintain a speed limit within 3-5 mph of the designated speed limit sign. Also, they need to know speeding tickets issued under these circumstances are always considerably higher than normal speeding ticket violations. 

#8 Driving with Friends Too Soon After Getting Their License

The freedom to drive is exciting, and teens want to share their newfound independence with friends more than anything. But driving friends before they’ve become comfortable and seasoned on the road is a recipe for disaster. Plus, depending on where you live, it can be illegal. 

Some states require that a new driver age 16-18 may only drive with family members for the first six months following the issuance of a driver’s license. During the second 6-month period, a new driver can only have one passenger in the vehicle and after a year, no more than three passengers. And, with good reason.

Having friends in the car is a major cause of accidents for teenagers. In fact, teen drivers are almost eight times more likely to get into a fatal accident when they’re carrying two or more passengers. 

The Takeaway

The best way to help your child avoid the 8 most common mistakes teen drivers make is by talking openly and honestly with them, making certain they’re fully aware of the rules of the road before they drive off by themselves, and offering plenty of adult-supervised practice. And the more DMV practice tests they can take before taking the official test for their driver’s license, the more prepared they will be for the road. 

Above all, ensure they know how important safe driving is and that you’ll be there to support them every step of the way.

Author: Tim Waldenback

Tim Waldenback is the co-founder of Zutobi Drivers Ed, a gamified e-learning platform focused on online drivers education to help teens get their driver’s license. Tim founded Zutobi to make world-class driver’s education fun, affordable and easily accessible for all.


Here are a few other posts you might enjoy reading:

Life-Saving Driving Tips Every Teen Should Know (Some Might Surprise You)

Essential Things Every Teen Driver Should Have in Their Car


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