Here are 7 habits teen drivers need to practice to make them safer drivers. Discuss them and monitor their behavior when possible for your peace of mind and their safety.
Use Seat Belts
Teens driving without supervision may think it is okay to skip the seat belt. However, 60 percent of fatal crashes of drivers 16 to 20 years old occur because they did not buckle up.
Remind your young driver that seat belts save lives. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found many teens avoid them because they think they’re potentially harmful, when nothing could be further from the truth.
When a teen checks their phone for messages, thinks it is okay to send a quick text message, or takes their eyes off the road while chatting with friends it can spell disaster. Distractions cause 11 percent of all fatal crashes for those under the age of 20 and a recent poll showed half of 16-19 year olds still text and drive. The risk of a fatal car accident increases fourfold with passengers in the vehicle.
Watch Your Speed
When you drive too quickly you cannot react if you’re in danger. Your reflexes just aren’t fast enough. Young drivers have not fully developed their skills either, so they may make incorrect decisions when faced with a potentially dangerous situation. Statistics show 37 percent of young male drivers sped before a fatal crash. Always allow ample time to reach your destination and do not use speed to impress your friends.
Understand the Rules of the Road
Passing a driver’s test doesn’t mean your teen knows the rules of the road well. They may not encounter things such as a flashing yellow turning light very often, so point out they should only proceed when it is safe to do so.
New drivers may not know when and how to use high beams if they drive on the highway at night or the dangers reduced visibility creates. They may not consider that driving at night can make you sleepy and reduces your focus if you’re not especially careful.
Prepare for the Worst
Does your teen know how to read a map and change a tire? GPS is great when you have service, but what happens if they’re lost and out of range?
Your teen needs to know the basics for vehicle operation such as how to change a tire or jump a battery. Put a local map in the glove box and teach them how to use it. Most of all, teach them not to panic if they miss a turn. It is better to stop when it’s safe and look at the map to find another way.
Their vehicle should also have an emergency kit with a flashlight, jumper cables, a blanket and a few snacks if they find themselves in a bind.
Watch the Weather
Driving in bad weather challenges experienced drivers, never mind novices. If your area has heavy rain, snow, or wind storms your teen driver needs to know the risks and what to do.
Obviously it is best for them not drive in bad weather, but Mother Nature isn’t always predictable. Their vehicle should also have the items they need to deal with whatever she throws at them.
Teach them how to handle skidding and how important it is to keep space between other vehicles during inclement weather events. Braking and turning slowly in slippery conditions are also behaviors they need to learn.
No Drugs or Alcohol
Teen drives need to know that drugs and alcohol and driving do not mix. Fortunately teens tend to drive impaired less often than adults, but the combination of inexperience and impairment increases their chances of a fatal crash when they do.
Young drivers also need to know what to do if they are in an accident. They should call 9-1-1 if anyone’s injured and then get the other driver’s name, address, license plate number, and their insurance information. They should take photos of the vehicles and collect the names and telephone numbers of witnesses. They should also report the accident to the police, even if someone tries to dissuade them. It’s the law in many states.
Of course, as a parent, you need to contact your insurance agent to discuss how adding a newly licensed driver to your auto insurance policy can impact your rates and coverage. You do not want to discover that you’re improperly insured after an accident.