Even if we don’t talk about it much, most parents will agree that one of our most nerve-racking moments is when we hand over the keys to the car and watch our kids drive off alone.
Regardless of how many hours of driver’s education our kids have, whether they took a defensive driving class, how many practice hours of driving they have under their belt or even how responsible they are, we still worry. And, with good reason.
According to statistics:
16-year-olds have higher crash rates than drivers of any other age.
1 in 5 16-year-olds will have a car accident in their first year of driving.
16 and 17-year-old driver death rates increase with each additional passenger.
More than a third of deaths of 13 to 19-year-olds per year occur in motor vehicle crashes.
Boys have a higher crash rate than girls.
As a mom who taught all three of my kids how to drive and who’s BIG on teaching my kids all the tips and tricks I’ve learned in my 35+ years on the road, I’ve found there’s far more to teaching our kids how to drive than simply driver’s ed class and sheer practice. To equip my kids the best I could, I reached out to a couple of driving instructors and asked them what tips they could offer outside the normal driver’s ed curriculum.
Aside from everything our kids learn in driver’s education class, which is, of course, invaluable, here are a few additional tips every teenage driver should know. Some just might surprise you.
Stay Out of the Bottlenecks on Freeways
The next time you’re cruising on the Interstate, pay attention to the flow of traffic. Unless it’s rush hour, what you’ll typically find is that most drivers drive in packs. These packs, or bottlenecks, are a recipe for impending disaster, especially for new drivers.
People are tailgating, they’re swerving in and out of lanes and everyone is vying for position. One of the best ways to avoid getting in an accident on an Interstate is by avoiding these bottlenecks at all costs, even if it means slightly slowing your speed temporarily to allow other cars to pass.
Avoid Changing Lanes on a Curve
Seasoned drivers do it without giving it a second thought. But, when you’re a new driver, changing lanes can be a challenge. Not only do they have to stay within the lines on the road, check their rearview mirror and check their side view mirrors, they also have to glance over their shoulder to make certain the adjacent lane is clear.
Add on the challenge of doing all of that while keeping the car on the road on a tight curve and it can be a lot to keep track of for a new driver. To avoid adding another, potentially dangerous factor when changing lanes, new drivers should avoid changing lanes on a curve until they have a little more driving experience under their belt.
Glance Both Ways Before Entering an Intersection
Young drivers are taught to follow the rules of the road. And, that’s typically exactly what they do. When the light is green or they have the arrow, they go. Oftentimes, they’re so hyper-focused on their own driving that they’re paying little attention to the drivers around them.
But, the harsh reality is, not everyone follows the rules of the road. Some drivers, in their attempt to shave off a few minutes of their trip, make that split-second decision to try to beat the red light – oftentimes at the expense of other drivers. These drivers are to blame for more than 800 deaths and an estimated 200,000 injuries in the U.S. each year. In fact, nationally, 40 percent of crashes occur at intersections.
To avoid an accident, young drivers need to be taught defensive driving techniques including scanning for potential hazards and glancing both ways before entering an intersection even if they have the right of way. Even a few seconds of advanced warning could be enough to avert a serious accident.
Keep Your Attitude in Check
They say attitude is everything. But, when it comes to driving it can mean the difference between life and death for our teens. Having a negative attitude, getting frustrated with other drivers, becoming impatient with slow or elderly drivers or becoming all too eager to reach their destination just a few minutes faster can put teens in serious danger.
Teach your teen to keep their attitude in check when behind the wheel of a car. There will always be that one driver who cuts you off, pulls out in front of you, tailgates you, blocks the intersection or honks when they don’t think you’re moving fast enough. Deal with it and move on… it’s never worth it to react.
Distractions Come in Many Forms
We all know how dangerous it is to text and drive and that passengers in our teen’s vehicle play a role in their ability to stay focused, but distractions come in many forms.
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.
Everything from singing to music and brushing their hair to glancing out the window and looking for a dropped item in the car can all lead to an unintended accident. To avoid a crash, teens need to be reminded to keep their guard up, avoid distractions as much as possible, and to always remain focused and alert when driving.
Don’t Let Confidence Turn Into Complacency
Learning how to drive is always stressful at first. But, for most teen drivers, once they get the hang of it, their confidence soars. The problem is, once confidence sets in, oftentimes so does complacency. The music gets a little louder, they pick up the speed, they tailgate, they glance at their phone – all signs that driving has become secondary to everything else going on around them. Driving is dangerous and although becoming a confident driver is always a good thing, becoming overly confident can be a recipe for disaster.
NEVER Put Your Feet on the Dashboard
Teenagers love putting their feet on the dashboard when they’re traveling as a passenger to stretch their legs a bit. (Some even put one foot up while driving). But, far too many reports have revealed that chilling out with your feet on the dash is not only dangerous, it’s quite possibly, deadly.
When a crash occurs, the airbags deploy at 100 to 220 mph, which upon impact, can seriously injure your legs and propel your knees into your face causing serious injuries and even death. As horrifying as it sounds, it’s a very real danger that most people are completely unaware of. Help your teen learn from other people’s mistakes – tell them to keep their feet on the floor.
When you hand over the keys to the car, stay involved and active while your child continues to learn safe driving habits. Even when you’re riding in the car with them, continue to teach them, point out things they should be on the lookout for and alert them to dangerous situations. We all know practice makes perfect. Inevitably, their expertise will only be gained through experience. The more your child is exposed to various driving conditions and situations, the better equipped they’ll be and the more adept they’ll become at foreseeing potential hazards.