Teaching Teens Safe Driving Practices
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five 16-year-old drivers are involved in a car accident during their first year on the road. That’s about 20% of first-time drivers. And these accidents aren’t just minor fender benders. In the U.S., a classroom of teens dies each day as a result of motor vehicle crashes. This goes to show that while teens may think they know everything, it’s important for parents to teach and encourage safe driving practices.
What factors put teen drivers at risk?
Inexperience is the leading factor in traffic crashes involving young adults. Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations, and they also engage in risky driving behaviors, such as speeding and following too closely. Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use, with only 54% of high school students reporting they always wear seat belts when riding with someone else.
In a nationwide survey, 24% of teens reported that within the previous month they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol, and 8% reported having driven after drinking alcohol within the same one-month period. At all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), the risk of involvement in a motor vehicle crash is greater for teens than for older drivers.
How can teen accidents be prevented?
Teen motor vehicle crashes are preventable, and proven strategies can help improve the safety of young drivers on the road. Here are five safe driving tips for teens that may seem obvious, but are often forgotten or disregarded:
1. Keep your hands on the wheel. Habitually keeping your hands on the wheel is not only important for navigation purposes, it can also help you avoid distractions. If your hands are on the wheel, they can’t wander to other places, such as your cell phone. Texting while driving takes your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road, putting both yourself and others in danger. If you’re easily tempted, shut your phone off entirely when getting in the car.
2. Know the speed limit. Speed limits are decided after careful evaluation and are selected based on the safest speed for each road. It is important to obey these speed limits in order to maintain full control of your vehicle. Cutting a few minutes from your drive is not worth the risk. To avoid speeding, leave to get to your destination a bit earlier than you would typically think necessary.
3. Be aware of each lane. It is important to know where you are in relation to other drivers. Every time you switch lanes, use your blinker promptly. Also, refrain from speeding up to get ahead of other cars. Unsafe lane changes often result in accidents.
4. Avoid slamming on your gas pedal or brake pedal. Learn to anticipate when you need to start and stop, so you don’t need to rush to make it happen. Not only is easing into a transition better for your car, it also makes you more aware of your surroundings. When a stoplight turns green, step on the gas pedal lightly at first and increase pressure slowly as you start moving forward. When approaching a stoplight, stop sign, or stopped traffic, begin applying pressure to your brakes from a distance, coming to a stop smoothly.
5. Don’t drive if you’re sleepy or emotional. We all know that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is dangerous. Your judgment and your response time are impaired. But we often forget that state of mind can affect driving ability as well. If you’re not feeling completely alert, awake, or focused, it’s a good idea to hold off on driving or have someone else drive you where you need to go.