Becoming a licensed driver is a rite of passage for many teens. However, before they hit the open road, it’s important they understand how to stay as safe as possible behind the wheel. After all, the CDC reports that per mile driven, teen drivers aged 16 to 19 are three times more likely than drivers age 20 and older to be involved in a fatal crash.
The good news is that the majority of these crashes are preventable. By going through proper training and understanding the basics of how to be a safe driver, teens can avoid an accident that can cause serious injury – or worse.
What is Defensive Driving?
Defensive driving involves a set of skills that allows drivers to defend themselves against accidents due to dangerous or impaired drivers, inclement weather and other hazards. Drivers can help reduce risks by understanding how to anticipate situations and make well-informed decisions every time they put the keys in the ignition.
Newly-Licensed Teens: How to be a Defensive Driver
Why are teens at such a higher risk for accidents? The first reason is simply their inexperience behind the wheel. They may not be able to recognize how dangerous a situation is until it’s too late, or they may make an error that could lead to a crash. Secondly, they are more likely to engage in risky driving behaviors, like speeding, distracted or impaired driving or not wearing their seatbelts.
This is why it’s critical that parents take the time to discuss defensive driving tips with their teens before handing over the car keys. Make sure teens can reiterate what they have learned from their driver’s education classes, and keep the following tips top of mind, sharing them regularly to ensure their teens fully understand how to stay safe on the road.
Defensive Driving Tip #1: Stay focused
Distracted driving kills nine people and results in over 1,000 injuries every day in the United States. Teens should understand that while they’re driving, they need to stay focused on that task alone. Put away cell phones, no adjusting radio stations or messing with navigation systems, and make sure passengers know to stay quiet.
Defensive Driving Tip #2: Be respectful of other drivers
It’s not uncommon for teens – or those of any age, really – to be running late to school, work or any kind of appointment, which leads to rushing when they hit the road. It’s important to respect other drivers, no matter the situation. This means no tailgating, honking or swerving in and out of lanes. These are dangerous behaviors that could also easily lead to a road rage incident the higher tempers flare.
Defensive Driving Tip #3: Anticipate the unexpected
A critical component of defensive driving is to remember that while your teen may be a safe driver, others sharing the road with them may not be. Always be prepared to react to other drivers suddenly switching lanes, look both ways before moving forward at a green light, etc.
Defensive Driving Tip #4: Follow the rules of the road
This seems like a fundamental safe driving tip that everyone knows, but in today’s world it’s so easy to get distracted by your surroundings and forget the basic rules of the road. Follow posted speed limit signs, as those speed limits exist to keep you safe. Use your blinker when making a turn. Yield to oncoming traffic. These rules can help your teen avoid a crash that could cost their life.
Defensive Driving Tip #5: Know the vehicle
Finally, teens should feel comfortable behind the wheel of their vehicles, and a well-running vehicle is also critical to keeping themselves and other drivers as safe as possible. This means understanding how the safety features work, how to use the windshield wipers and fill the gas tank, know when oil changes are necessary, and so on. Know how the car handles in inclement weather, like rain, snow and fog.